LCFC vs. WBA

Leicester City's Seven Previous FA Cup Semi-Final Appearances

Ahead of Sunday's Emirates FA Cup Semi-Final tie against Southampton, Club Historian John Hutchinson recalls Leicester City’s previous seven last-four appearances, resulting in the Foxes reaching four finals.

Leicester face the Saints in a 6:30pm BST kick-off at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, hoping to reach a fifth showpiece. Although City have never lifted the famous trophy, the Club have experienced many dramatic occasions in the most prestigious domestic cup competition in English football...

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Jack, Sep & Willie Smith
Jack, Sep & Willie Smith

Sep Smith pictured between brothers Jack and Willie, who starred for Portsmouth against the Foxes.

Leicester City 1 Portsmouth 4
17 March, 1934
St. Andrew's Stadium

On 17 March, 1934, City played Portsmouth at St. Andrew's in their first-ever FA Cup Semi-Final. Not only was this the biggest game in the Club’s history at that point, it was also unique in that, for the only time in last-four history, three brothers played in the same game.

Sep Smith, on the verge of an England cap, played for Leicester. His brothers, Jack, an England International, and Willie played for Portsmouth. City’s training for the match included concentrating on shooting, climbing up to Old John, rounds of golf at Kirby Muxloe and table tennis.

To overcome the colour clash caused by both teams playing in blue, Leicester were to play the game in white shirts and black shorts. Leaving nothing to chance, the team trained on the Thursday before the game in this kit.

The team travelled to Birmingham by road on the morning of the match, but the game ended in disappointment. In front of a record crowd for St. Andrew's of 66,544, City lost 4-1. With a dazzling sun in Leicester’s eyes, Portsmouth were 2-0 up in 22 minutes, but Arthur Lochhead pulled a goal back by half-time.

However, Portsmouth scored two more goals in the first five minutes of the second half, with Jack Weddle completing his hat-trick, before Sep Rutherford added a fourth.

This collapse of the City defence may have had something to do with the fact that, just before half-time, Leicester full-back Sandy Wood (who had played for the USA in the inaugural World Cup Finals four years earlier) broke his nose after running into and falling over a touchline photographer.

Despite City losing, Sep Smith was singled out for special praise by the national press, which reported that: 'Sep Smith was second to none in the match as a polished performer.'

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LCFC vs. Portsmouth
LCFC vs. Portsmouth

Leicester once again faced Portsmouth at Highbury in 1949.

Leicester City 3 Portsmouth 1
26 March, 1949
Highbury

The Club's second FA Cup Semi-Final was also against Portsmouth, 15 years later. Pompey were to be crowned league champions that year (and the next) and were favourites to win the FA Cup to become the first side since 1897 to win the league and cup double.

By way of contrast, Leicester were 20th in the Second Division and in a desperate fight to avoid relegation. Managed by Johnny Duncan, City were a young side, with an average age of 24. As 400/1 outsiders, their route to the semi-final had included two third-round replays against Birmingham City.

An 18-goal fifth-round tie against Luton Town followed, when a 5-5 draw at Kenilworth Road was followed by a 5-3 victory at Filbert Street.

In the semi-final, the Foxes, wearing white shirts, created ‘one of the biggest sensations of modern times’ by defeating Portsmouth 3-1 in front of a 62,000 crowd at Highbury. Future England star Don Revie scored in the fifth minute. Portsmouth equalised, but City were in command and it was 1-1 at half-time.

Leicester then scored twice in the first nine minutes of the second half after Portsmouth had missed the simplest of chances to score the equaliser. Ken Chisholm regained the lead for the Foxes and then Revie scored his second with a perfect lob over a cluster of players.

Revie and Mal Griffiths were outstanding for City, as were Ted Jelly, Norman Plummer and Sandy Scott. A huge welcome ‘which would have done justice to a king’ awaited the players back in Leicester. The Club had reached their first-ever final, when they would meet Wolverhampton Wanderers at Wembley.

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LCFC vs. Sheffield United 1961
LCFC vs. Sheffield United 1961

Victory over Sheffield United sealed a spot in the final against Tottenham Hotspur.

Leicester City 2 Sheffield United 0
27 March, 1961
St. Andrew's Stadium

The 1961 FA Cup Semi-Final between City and Sheffield United was an epic tie which went to two replays. To reach the last-four, the Foxes had also contested replays in the fifth round against Birmingham City and in the quarter-final against Barnsley.

City's first semi-final against the Blades at Elland Road had been a dour 0-0 draw. Five days later, the replay at Nottingham Forest was another grim affair. The score was still even at 0-0 after extra time. 

Four days after that game (and only two days after squeezing in a First Division fixture at Preston North End), the second replay of the semi-final took place at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew's Stadium. In this decisive game, which finally broke the deadlock, Ian King missed a penalty for City in the 11th minute.

It wasn’t until the 48th minute that Leicester scored. Howard Riley picked up a sliced United clearance, made a beeline for the goal and unleashed a thunderbolt shot which was beaten out by the goalkeeper, Alan Hodgkinson. The ball fell to Jimmy Walsh’s feet, who promptly put it in the net.

Eleven minutes later, Ken Leek added a second when, picking up a Richie Norman pass, he fired in a shot from 18 yards. Sheffield United themselves missed a penalty in the 65th minute and City finally emerged as victors. An aggregate total of nearly 133,000 fans watched these three semi-final games over nine days.

By the time Leicester reached the FA Cup Final against league champions Tottenham Hotspur, they had played an exhausting 10 games, watched by a total of over a third of a million spectators. Hardly surprisingly, City did not emerge from the Sheffield United games unscathed.

Left winger Gordon Wills was injured in the first game and didn’t recover in time for the final, his place going to Albert Cheesebrough for the replayed games and for the Wembley Final.

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LCFC vs. Liverpool 1963 semi-final
LCFC vs. Liverpool 1963 semi-final

The Foxes booked an excellent victory over Liverpool in 1963.

Leicester City 1 Liverpool 0
27 April, 1963
Hillsborough

When Leicester City faced Liverpool in the 1963 FA Cup Semi-Final in front of a 65,000-strong crowd at Hillsborough, they occupied second place in the old First Division. Bill Shankly’s Liverpool were sixth in the table.

Realistic contenders for the league and FA Cup double, City’s famous ‘Ice Kings’ team exerted pressure right from the start. Future manager Frank McLintock unleashed an early shot, which went wide, and centre-forward Ken Keyworth failed to gather a 40-yard pass from Howard Riley. 

Liverpool’s counter-attacks were repelled by a solid City defence who were ‘tackling like lions.’ But it was Leicester who scored first, in the 18th minute.

It came as Howard Riley’s free-kick was driven perfectly towards the far post and left winger Mike Stringfellow out-jumped the Liverpool defenders to score with a header into the left-hand corner of the net.

Liverpool spent the rest of the game striving for an equaliser. Mike Stringfellow succinctly described what happened next when he said: “After the goal, they gave us a right battering for the rest of the game!”

The result was in doubt right until the end. In the last two minutes, in a white-hot atmosphere, Gordon Banks leapt across his goal for a brilliant one-handed punching save from Ian St John. Right up to the last minute, Liverpool were still searching desperately for a goal, but Leicester City held firm until the last exhausting second.

A report at the time said that Liverpool ‘threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Leicester defence.’ Banks was superb, making a series of vital saves. Graham Cross, who ‘staged some heroic rescues,’ played as an extra defender, creating a back four, which was quite an innovation at the time.

Shankly, on the other hand, criticised these tactics, saying that the way Leicester played was a 'disgrace'. Despite this, the next season, he had Liverpool playing the same system. This victory meant that Leicester City were to face relegation-fighting Manchester United in the final at Wembley.

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1969 Leicester City side
1969 Leicester City side

Frank O’Farrell's Leicester squad which reached the final in 1969.

Leicester City 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
29 March, 1969
Hillsborough

City’s run to the 1969 semi-final against cup holders West Bromwich Albion was masterminded by their new manager Frank O’Farrell, who had taken over from the long-serving Matt Gillies three months earlier.

On their way to the semi-final, Leicester defeated Barnsley (after a replay), Millwall, Liverpool (famously winning at Anfield following a draw at Filbert Street) and Mansfield Town. A Hillsborough crowd of over 53,000 people saw a tense and nervy struggle on a sanded and muddy pitch.

At one stage, West Brom threatened to overwhelm their opponents, hitting the bar in the 28th minute. However, Peter Rodrigues, John Sjoberg, Graham Cross and David Nish, aided by the tireless Bobby Roberts and backed up by Peter Shilton, defended superbly.

In the second half, City winger Len Glover went off injured with a damaged groin and was replaced by Malcolm Manley. Later, there was a worrying moment when Allan Clarke, City’s British record signing, went down injured, clutching his knee.

However, Clarke recovered and, four minutes from time, with the game still goalless, he scored. Striker Andy Lochhead headed the ball down to Clarke on the edge of the box and his right-footed shot sped low and hard across the pitch to beat goalkeeper John Osborne, who was left clutching at thin air.

The City players celebrated by dancing with delight, but the final few minutes of the match, which included four minutes of added time, were nerve-wracking for Leicester players and fans alike. The team held on to their lead, though, and they went through to their third FA Cup final in eight years.

They would go on to lose 1-0 to the previous season’s league champions, Manchester City. Three weeks later, Leicester were relegated after 12 seasons in the top flight.

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LCFC vs. Liverpool
LCFC vs. Liverpool

The Foxes weren't as lucky in their second last-four meeting with the Reds.

Leicester City 1 Liverpool 3
3 April, 1974
Villa Park

Five years later, Jimmy Bloomfield’s Leicester, firmly re-established in the old First Division, reached their sixth FA Cup Semi-Final.

The cup run had seen a Steve Earle goal defeat Tottenham Hotspur in the third round. This was followed by a victory over Fulham in a replay at Filbert Street with goals from Len Glover and Frank Worthington. 

The fifth-round 4-0 victory at Luton Town was a masterclass of attacking football, which resulted in the national press comparing Leicester to Brazil. The highlight of the game was Keith Weller’s brilliant individual goal.

The quarter-final victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, meanwhile, made debutant Joe Waters famous. Replacing the injured Alan Birchenall, he scored two superb goals in a 2-0 victory which took City to the semi-final at Old Trafford against Liverpool. 

This was a gruelling game in front of a 60,000 crowd. Territorially, Liverpool were dominant, but wave after wave of attacks were repelled by a superb City defence in which Graham Cross was outstanding, just as he had been in the semi-final against Liverpool 11 years earlier.

The Reds hit the post in the last minute but Leicester survived and the game ended goalless. The replay was at Villa Park four days later. The match was played at a terrific pace. Liverpool went ahead in the first minute of the second half when Brian Hall scored with a deflection off Keith Weller.

But, two minutes later, Len Glover equalised when he slammed home a shot following a build-up involving Worthington and Steve Earle.

In the 64th minute, Kevin Keegan volleyed home an unstoppable shot past Peter Shilton to make it 2-1. As the game neared its conclusion and, in a desperate attempt to equalise, Graham Cross joined the attack, leaving the defence vulnerable.

With two minutes to go, John Toshack, who very nearly signed for Leicester the following season, scored Liverpool’s third goal. 

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LCFC vs. Spurs
LCFC vs. Spurs

Dramatic events in the South Atlantic overshadowed City's semi-final clash with Spurs.

Leicester City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
3 April, 1982
Villa Park

With the news dominated by the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands and on the day that it was announced that a huge task force would set sail to the South Atlantic, Leicester City made their seventh appearance in an FA Cup Semi-Final. 

On 3 April, 1982, they met Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park in a dramatic game in which one City player suffered a broken leg and another scored an own goal. The day started badly when the police escort for Leicester’s team coach failed to turn up at their hotel, making the team’s journey to the ground difficult.

Then the kick-off was delayed for a few minutes as the Spurs fans released a live cockerel onto the pitch. Jock Wallace’s Second Division Leicester started brightly with forwards Gary Lineker and Steve Lynex putting pressure on the Tottenham back four.

But, as the game progressed, Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle began to dominate the game for Spurs. At half-time, Wallace made a change. Alan Young was replaced by Jim Melrose, but 12 minutes into the second half, Tottenham scored.

Hoddle’s short corner was commuted by Ardiles to Garth Crooks, who brilliantly volleyed the ball past Mark Wallington. City’s fortune then took a second decisive turn for the worst when full-back Tommy Williams broke his leg after a tackle on Tony Galvin.

Not only was this a tragedy for Williams, it also meant that Leicester, having used their one substitute, had to play the rest of the game with 10 men. In the 75th minute, Scottish midfielder Ian Wilson tried to make too sure of a back pass, resulting in him lobbing the ball over Wallington for an own goal. 

This shattered Leicester’s hopes of a Wembley FA Cup Final appearance. City’s fans, until then in great voice, were finally silenced. 

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