Skip to main content

9th May 2024

FA Cup Semi Final: “Who is everyone talking about now? Certainly not the team that won.”

During a nail-biting and controversial match again Manchester Utd, the hopes of Coventry fans reached cloud 9
FA Cup Semi Final: “Who is everyone talking about now? Certainly not the team that won.”
Coventry City End at Wembley Stadium Source: BBC Sport

On Sunday 21 April, Manchester United and Coventry City met at Wembley for the FA Cup Semi Final. It would be United’s 32nd appearance in the competition’s semi-final whilst Coventry had only been here once before, in 1987 where we went on to win the tournament. The sky blues are the first Championship side to make it to the FA Cup Semi Final since Cardiff in 2008. Coming off the back of a thrilling late winner against Wolves in the quarter finals, Coventry were hoping to keep the momentum going against the giants of English football.

As a born and raised Coventrian, I can’t say that my childhood was filled with the sporting successes of my hometown team. In fact, when you told people you supported CCFC, it was a blatant giveaway that the only reason you did was because you were from the city. It all really started going downhill for Coventry City in the early 2000s. At the end of the 2000/01 season, Coventry were relegated to the Championship after being one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992. Since then, City would be relegated twice, change their ownership multiple times, and share their ‘home’ ground with Northampton which is in an entirely different county to Coventry.

The 2013/14 campaign got underway for Coventry with a second points deduction and the smallest home crowds given the capacity of Sixfields Stadium in Northampton. Things were looking pretty bleak for my hometown team until former Coventry manager, Mark Robins decided he had unfinished business with the side and returned to the club in 2013. 2020 saw Coventry promoted back to the Championship despite another groundshare row with Birmingham City at St Andrews. Negotiations with Wasps Rugby for CCFC to return to the Ricoh were not materialising and the team played its home games during the 2020/21 season at St Andrew, 40 minutes away. Nevertheless, and against all the odds, three years later, the Sky Blues were in the Championship Play-Offs against Luton Town, painstakingly close to the pinnacle of English football, the Premier League. After coming from behind, Coventry would lose 5-6 to Luton on penalties (can you see there is a slight pattern starting to form here?)

Jamie Gould and his family before the game
Source: Andrea Finlay @ The Mancunion

36,000 of the Sky-Blue Army travelled down to Wembley on Sunday to watch their beloved team. Michael Winterton, 60, a retired pastoral teacher was born and raised in Coventry and experienced the FA Cup Final1987 where Coventry lifted the trophy. He made the journey down to Wembley again for the semi-final. “I travelled in trepidation because I don’t like Man Utd and feared we might freeze due to the occasion and be thrashed,” he said. The day started with “an unbelievable rendition of We’ll Live and Die in These Towns and Take Me Home, Highfield Road,” said Stuart Sullivan, another Coventry fan who made the journey down south on Sunday morning.

I don’t think it is unfair to say that expectations of a win were relatively tame. Naturally, every football fan dares to ask the question ‘but…what if?’. So, it was under this hopeful precedent that I dragged myself and my friends to the nearest English pub on my year abroad in France to try and watch my hometown team at Wembley. After asking the bartender three times, he eventually switched the tennis off, with a huff, and put on the football and asked if I was a Manchester United fan. I told him no and that I was from Coventry, and he sort of rolled his eyes. Other Coventry fans were also seemingly reserved about playing the powerhouse of football, Manchester United; “All I wanted was a good showing of ourselves – just don’t lose by 3 or more,” said Jamie Gould.

Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes celebrate the third United goal
Source: BBC Sport

So, when it was 0-3 to United before the 60th, I don’t think I would be the only Coventrian to think that that was it. We had tried but ultimately, we had failed, and the top dog would win. Even after coming from behind to win at Wolves in the 100th minute a month prior, three goals in less than half an hour seemed out of the question.

But then, 19 minutes from full-time, Ellis Simms scores. The commentators are happy to give the 36,000 Coventry fans one thing to cheer about on the coach home. 11 minutes from full-time, O’Hare’s strike is deflected off Wan-Bissaka and suddenly its 3-2. Manchester United’s defence starts to unravel as the Coventry substitutes excel. 5 minutes added on from full-time, Coventry are awarded a penalty and Haji Wright, replicating his performance at Wolves, pulls Coventry back in the 95th minute to make it 3-3.

Haji Wright Celebrates His Equaliser in Front of the Coventry Fans Source: BBC Sport

“The pure joy of every goal was emphatic and uncontrollable,” exclaimed Jamie Gould. As the United stand started to empty, the voices of the Coventry fans took over Wembley Stadium. “A comeback of epic proportion, it defied belief,” noted Michael Winterton. Adie Hill, a family friend of mine explained the emotion of the crowd; “An old chap next to me was crying with complete joy and explained that he had been waiting for this moment for 50 years.” And so, extra-time.

In the 120th minute, moments before the game ended, Viktor Torp scores and delirium hits. Coventry City are going through to the FA Cup Final after coming back from 0-3 down to beat Manchester United. Except on this occasion, the stars do not align for Coventry City and our goal is disallowed by VAR.

Now, as always in football, there will be controversies on VAR and how the offside line was apparently drawn over Haji Wright’s foot on purpose so he would seem offside or the allegations that it was in fact Alex Ferguson who was actually the Video Assistant Referee on Sunday for his beloved Manchester United (he wasn’t). The game went to penalties and ended with a 4-2 victory for Manchester United after two missed penalties from Coventry City.

Coventry Fan During the Penalty Shoot Out Source: BBC Sport

As heart-breaking as it was, I believe that the main story resides in the sheer grit and determination of the Coventry players and the Coventry fans. “We remained true to our players and despite losing on penalties, we remained in our thousands, cheering the lads on for the best Coventry display since 1987” said Gould. When Coventry defender Joel Latibeaudiere gave a TV interview at the end of the game, the thousands of Coventry fans were still there, still chanting and cheering for their side. My childhood friend, Ethan Regan, stated that “taking a giant of English football to penalties is a huge achievement and has put Coventry City back on the footballing map”.

Coventry should be extremely proud of our football team today. To see a town come together for an event is special regardless of the circumstances but there is something extra special when it is your hometown. We normally don’t have too much to cheer about in Coventry; just a very regular, ordinary city in the West Midlands. So, although it is just a football game, this definitely gave the city something to rally around.

Erik Ten Hag, Manchester United manager, admitted that his team had ‘gotten away with it’ and despite the unwarranted, and let’s face it, undeserved celebrations of Antony and theatrics of Onana, Manchester United were seemingly embarrassed of their scraping win. Ed Smith, who is originally from Manchester but now calls Coventry home, said that it was “the best match I’ll ever see live, it’ll live with me for a long time”.

We may have been beaten but we were brilliant. “And keep asking yourself, who is everyone talking about now? It certainly isn’t the team that won the shoot-out?” concluded Jamie Gould. “I left Wembley with the knowledge that Coventry was the real Cup winner,” finished Adie.


Celebrations When Coventry Make It 3-3 Source: BBC Sport








More Coverage

Victory for MMU as Varsity returns for 2024

It was a day to remember for Manchester Metropolitan as they finished their season on a high, ousting the University of Manchester 20-38 in a thrilling comeback for The Manchester Varsity Series.  At last, Varsity returned to a ticketed event, sold-out by both universities. As kick off approached, supporters were primed and ready to enjoy […]

The new generation of F1 drivers: Wasted potential?

F1 is the highest class of international racing for single-seaters, but with such extreme competitiveness and only 20 seats on the grid what are the options available to talented drivers like Liam Lawson or Oliver Bearman?

Tyrants cruise to playoff victory against Stirling Clansmen. Final Score: 20 – 8

The Tyrants wrapped up the division title on the final day of the regular season against MMU and progressed to next round of the playoffs with a convincing win.

Memories of the game: A look back at favourite sporting moments

Whether it be on the world stage or during adolescence, there has been one sporting moment that has stuck with everyone. Explore the emotional and accelerating seconds that remain with our team to this day