Some people say that seeing your team lift a trophy is the final twist of your DNA becoming entwined with the club.
But for others, it is a Cup final heartbreak that truly bonds a fan with their chosen love.
And we have got plenty of final heartbreak to choose from.
Here’s a list of the 5 most infuriating, soul-destroying Cup Finals we have had the displeasure to be part of.
Grab the tissues, this is a real tear-jerker:
5 – Arsenal Vs Galatasaray, UEFA Cup Final. Copenhagen. 2000.
Arsenal turned up to the Danish capital in decent form and had the likes of Bergkamp, Overmars, Henry and skipper supreme Tony Adams in our ranks. We had overcome Werder Bremen, Lens, Nantes and Deportivo to get to the final in Parken and were tipped as favourites.
But it never works out on paper.
Galatasaray were savvy, they were experienced. With Brazil’s goalkeeper, Claudio Taffarel in between the sticks, Gheorghe Popescu in defence and the wily Hagi in attack, The Turks were more than a threat.
They created chances, sure, but ask any Gooner about that night and they will tell you a familiar story of Arsenal profligacy that eventually cost us. Overmars, Henry, Bergkamp, Parlour, even Keown – all were guilty of failing to rubberstamp our victory.
And so it went to penalties after extra time so no goals and Hagi sent off for elbowing Adams in the back.
And still Galatasaray won on spotkicks, 4-1. Davor Suker and Patrick Vieira both failed to find the net and it meant the Turkish side won their first ever European trophy – and Arsenal had now lost two consecutive European Finals….
4 – The Nayim lob. Cup Winners Cup Final. Vs Real Zaragoza. 1995
A year on from famously winning the trophy against a star-studded Parma outfit, Arsenal once again rocked up to the Cup Winners Cup final, hoping to make it two for two.
And it was snatched from us in horrible circumstances.
The venue was Paris and there was cause for optimism for Gooners, despite our worsening Premier League form. We had become an established cup team, reaching four finals in just three seasons. This, the fourth, would be the only loss from the quartet.
The game was largely a stalemate across the pitch, few chances for either side – although Zaragoza had the edge in number of chances. Yet none troubled Seaman.
The game was all square at full-time, which led to thirty more minutes of nail-biting. The match looked to everyone like it was headed to penalties, when Nayim picked the ball up about 40 yards from goal, wide on the right. He swung his boot, seeing Seaman off his line. His audacious effort curled in the air and evaded Safe Hands’ efforts to stop it finding the net. Instead, Seaman tumbled backward, grasping nothing. Seconds from spot-kicks, this cup had been stolen from us with an ending that none could have seen coming.
3 – Arsenal 2-3 Luton Town. 1988 League Cup Final, Wembley
Arsenal were strong favourites for this one. We had just dispatched the Hatters in the League two months beforehand. After winning the same cup a year before against the mighty Liverpool, the Gunners under George Graham were building something special and this was a great opportunity to keep the silverware going.
But it didn’t happen and the reason this final is known as ‘The Gus Caesar Final’ to Gooners might give you a clue as to what happened.
Luton upset the match plan early doors, with Brian Stein scoring. It meant the Gunners had to force the issue a bit more. We did just that with two goals from Martin Hayes and Smudge. We even had the chance to put gloss on the result with a penalty, but Nigel Winterburn was denied by a mercurial Andy Dibble in Luton’s goal.
Cue Gus Caesar, a replacement for the stalwart David O’Leary who was ruled out through injury. Caesar’s miscued attempt of a clearance led to Danny Wilson equalising in the 83rd minute – and a 90th minute free kick from Luton meant the trophy was headed to the Hatters for the first time.
Arsenal dominated. We hit the woodwork. We missed a penalty. We had more than enough to win the game and the trophy, but bad luck conspired against us that day. Pretty similar to another heartbreaking cup loss, 13 years later…
2 – Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool. FA Cup Final, 2001.
The Gunners were buoyed by recent signings and had flair that was the undoing of most opponents. Their obstacle toward the famous old trophy that day, Liverpool, were a hotchpotch of talent and obscure foreign buys who had not quite bedded in. On their day? Dangerous. But for the most part, wildly inconsistent.
But the fact they had Michael Owen – at the time perhaps amongst the best strikers in the world – meant that if they had a chance, they would take it.
The problem was, the chances largely went our way – but we yet again failed to take them.
Sander Westerveld, remember him? – was in the Reds goal and he denied Thierry Henry on countless occasions when put through. When it went past Westerveld? Well, good thing the FA allowed Stephane Henchoz to handball on the goalline – otherwise Liverpool would have been dead and buried. Don’t believe me? Click the link to see it on YouTube (at 00:54 seconds).
Arsenal should have had this wrapped up, but despite our goal advantage, we were sucker-punched by Owen’s two late goals – in a cup final so one-sided, witnesses still can’t believe we didn’t win it.
Luck did return the favour though. Just look at highlights of our 2005 FA Cup win over Utd…
1 – Arsenal 1-2 Barcelona. 2006. Paris. Champions League Final
Could it have been any other game? I still can’t watch the hghlights when they appear on TV. I admit tears were shed – and I know I wasn’t the only one.
Barcelona were favourites for this game – and with Ronaldhino in the side, as well a s a prime Eto’o and Deco, they had a side that were ominous. Oh yeah, and Iniesta and Xavi of course. Frank Rijkaard had built quite the team.
Arsenal Wenger’s side were not the Invincibles of two years ago. With funding cut, it meant replacements had to be sought more cunningly, although a large swathe of the side was the same as 2004. The differences were Vieira had departed, with a talented Spaniard by the name of Cesc Fabregas taking up the mantle. And Alex Hleb was in the side too.
It was us who got off to the better start – and two clear cut chances fell to Henry – the best player in the world, most would say at the time – who shot straight at Valdes both times. Even Henry himself admits he should have done better, but we can’t hold it against him.
We would pay for those, but mostly, for a refereeing decision that spoiled the game. In the 18th minute, Eto’o was through, bearing down on Lehmann. There was no cover, so the German came out of his box and was adjudged to have brought down the Cameroonian. But Giuly had followed on and slotted the loose ball home, so the right decision, to balance the game, would have been to award the goal and avoid the red card.
Instead, Lehmann was sent off, Pires was sacrificed to bring on Almunia – and the rest is too painful, but I’ll try.
We defied belief by actually taking the lead through a Sol Campbell header. We knew our defence was solid by breaking the record for consecutive minutes without conceding in the previous rounds. We held them at bay. We even had a couple of chances to put it to bed – which wasn’t to be.
Rijkaard threw the dice, brought on Swede Henrik Larsson who was elusive and led to Los Blaugranas equalising late in the second half through Eto’o. Then, the most unlikely source for a goal, Juliano Belletti, scored through Almunia’s legs at the near post and that was that.
This has been quite emotional! Do you agree or disagree with the 5 finals above, or the order? Comments below please!
I was at that League Cup final, Block I, tower side, if I remember right, ripped the ticket up on the final whistle, there was a crush, tried to get over the wall but OB was
being pricks, gonna nick anyone coming over to the walkway and the next level down even though they was being told that the section was overfilling, me and a pal of a pal called Dave ended up pushing a big bloke back off one of the railings cos his chest was being crushed against it, he was bang in trouble so I told him to put his arms like he was boxing and me and Dave pushed him back just enough to let him breathe til the OB realised and stopped people coming in.
Ended up taking a wrong turn for the second half and ended up in the clappy consumer neutral section, steward wouldn’t let us back out, even with the tickets, horrible quiet place, and Dave and me had to watch it sitting next to a Luton dad and his young son in a scarf, hard keeping it down, especially that last 5 or so minutes, final whistle we just shook with the dad and kid and got the f out of there, my only time at Wembley with The Arsenal.
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This could’ve been in a book – sounds horrifying and unforgettable.
We was treated like a cross between prisoners and cattle back then by the OB, don’t think anyone got hurt by luck really, the big guy got his breath back quick, still rather have been in the original section though rather than the morgue I ended up in second half, only the second time I’d sat down at a match (first time didn’t matter, Oxford Uni v Cambridge Uni, 83) but trying to stay sat down and polite watching The Arsenal was difficult, especially aged 17, the tube ride back to Izzy was quiet though, rightly so.
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You can add Birmingham and Swindon to this list
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