FOOTBALL: Fantastic Tales of a Coveted Trophy; Martyn Ziegler on a Book That Unearths the Great Stories of the FA Cup

Article excerpt

Football, it is said too often, is a funny old game but nowhere is it stranger or more quirky than the FA Cup.

This season's tournament has already thrown up the tale of Veli Hakki, who was allowed to play for Borehamwood against Blackpool in the first round last month despite being banned as a spectator from all league grounds following a prison sentence for football-related violence.

Hakki's inclusion could not prevent a 4-0 drubbing by Blackpool --unlike a case way back in 1894 when Reading had their winning goal scored by a prisoner who was on the run from the military authorities at the time.

As well as playing for Reading, Jimmy Stewart was a soldier in the King's Own Regiment based in Aldershot but when he was needed for an FA Cup third qualifying round match against Southampton St Mary's he was serving time in military prison for a breach of discipline.

Reading's secretary Horace Walker decided that Stewart was vital to the team and, after plying the officer in charge with two bottles of whisky, secured his unofficial release. Stewart scored the winning goal before sneaking back to his cell but the story leaked out and Southampton complained to the FA.

The FA however decided the result should stand --as there was nothing in the rules which specifically stated that escaped prisoners were ineligible to play. The case of Jimmy Stewart is just one of hundreds of fascinating stories, facts and figures contained in a new book, The Complete Record of the FA Cup.The 880-page volume contains every possible fact imaginable about the competition from its inception through to the present day plus a club-by-club record of every side from Aberdare Athletic to Yorkshire Amateurs.

For example, who was the youngest FA Cup final goalkeeper? …