|1956 FA Cup Final|
|5 May 1956|
In a contest billed as a contrast of styles, Manchester City took the lead early in the match through Joe Hayes, with Noel Kinsey equalising midway through the first half. Second half goals from Jack Dyson and Bobby Johnstone gave Manchester City a 3–1 victory. The match is best remembered nowadays for the heroics of Manchester City's goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, who continued playing despite breaking a bone in his neck in a collision with Peter Murphy.
|4||Southend United (a)||1–0|
|Semi||Tottenham Hotspur (n)||1–0|
In the fifth round match the teams saw out a 0–0 draw at Maine Road, and the match was replayed at Anfield. Goals from Jack Dyson and Bobby Johnstone gave Manchester City a 2–1 lead, but the game finished in controversial circumstances when the referee blew his whistle for full time as Liverpool's Billy Liddell was bearing down on goal. Liddell scored, but unbeknown to him the goal did not count as the match was over. Further controversy followed in the semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, when, with the score at 1–0 to Manchester City, Tottenham were denied a penalty after goalkeeper Bert Trautmann grabbed forward George Robb's leg.
|3||Torquay United (a)||7–1|
|4||Leyton Orient (a)||4–0|
|5||West Bromwich Albion (a)||1–0|
Against Arsenal on a muddy pitch, after first-half goals from Gordon Astall and Murphy, Birmingham went 3–0 up through Brown with 20 minutes left; two minutes later, Arsenal scored from 30 yards, Birmingham were unsettled, and Merrick needed to make a fine save from Vic Groves. Manager Turner used to encourage the players to sing on the way to important matches in order to relieve the tension. Scotsman Alex Govan's contribution, Harry Lauder's rousing "Keep right on to the end of the road", was adopted by his team-mates, and as the team coach approached Highbury with the windows wound down, the fans joined in, continuing their rendition during the game. Turner felt the motivation from such a powerful song played a significant part in the day's victory.
Semi-final opponents Sunderland found Birmingham without "hard-man" left-half Roy Warhurst, who had injured a thigh against Arsenal, but in Jack Badham they had an effective replacement. The club's official history describes this as "probably the finest team performance against top class opposition ever produced" by a Birmingham team. They attacked from the kick-off, Noel Kinsey scoring early, and nullified Sunderland's pressure and the threat of Len Shackleton. The second goal came from a passing move down the left side finished by Astall, and as Sunderland threw everyone forward, leaving themselves open at the back, Brown picked up a long through ball and lobbed the goalkeeper. Astall said afterwards that he was surprised they had not scored five, and Brown wrote in his newspaper column:
Now Sunderland found out how hard it is to score against this terrific defence of ours. Not for nothing have we scored 18 goals against two (both of them freaks) conceded in five ties all away from home. What can I say to do justice to that brilliant goalkeeper Gil Merrick, to wonderful young Trevor Smith and to the matchless Jeff Hall and Ken Green? Once again they mixed the old cement and constructed that brilliant wall of a defence. Sunderland would have needed to call in a firm of demolition contractors to destroy it.
In reaching the final Birmingham City achieved a feat which had never been previously accomplished, as they did not play a single tie at home.
During the 1950s the FA Cup final was the only football match to be televised nationally, resulting in heightened media attention for the players and clubs involved. The Birmingham players signed an exclusive contract with the BBC committing them to appear only on BBC programmes in the weeks leading up to the final. Manchester City spent the week preceding the final at a training camp in Eastbourne. Two days before the final Bert Trautmann was named FWA Footballer of the Year.
For Manchester City, eight players who had played in the previous year's final were selected. Press speculation in the run-up to the match pondered which of Don Revie and Bobby Johnstone would be selected, as Johnstone had been suffering from a calf problem, but an injury to Billy Spurdle meant both appeared in the line-up, Johnstone switching to outside-right. Bill Leivers was also an injury doubt due to a twisted ankle, but was passed fit for the final.
Birmingham also had doubts over their selection. Wing half Roy Warhurst injured a thigh in the sixth round at Arsenal and played no further part in the season. Len Boyd had for some time been suffering from a debilitating back problem, and relied on injections to keep him playing; he missed five of the last seven games of the season, and was sufficiently doubtful for the final that manager Turner named four half-backs in his 13-man squad on the eve of the game. In the event, Boyd played, in Warhurst's position at left-half. Badham, who had proved an able deputy in the semi-final, was omitted, and the inexperienced 22-year-old Johnny Newman came in on the right.
As the teams prepared in the dressing rooms, the crowd was led in communal singing, including songs with resonance for each of the two teams, "She's a lassie from Lancashire" and "Keep right on to the end of the road", and the traditional hymn "Abide with Me".
The first attacking move of the match resulted in the opening goal. Within three minutes of the start Revie began the move, exchanging passes with Roy Clarke, and back-heeling for the unmarked Hayes to sweep the ball past Gil Merrick to put Manchester City ahead. Birmingham's confidence was shaken, resulting in a series of Manchester City corners and a chance for Hayes, but they fought back to equalise in the fifteenth minute when Brown received the ball from Newman's long throw-in and flicked it back to Welsh international inside‑forward Noel Kinsey who fired home via Trautmann's far post. For the remainder of the first half Birmingham had most of the play, exerting pressure on Manchester City full-back Leivers, but were unable to make a breakthrough. Though Birmingham put the ball in the net twice, Brown was adjudged to be offside on both occasions. With Warhurst missing and Boyd out of position and not fully fit, Birmingham's strength and balance was disrupted, leaving them particularly vulnerable to Manchester City's unconventional style.
During the half-time interval, a row erupted between the Birmingham manager and some of his players about their fitness; over in the Manchester City dressing room, a heated exchange took place between Barnes and Revie. Barnes had played defensively in the first half to counter the threat of Peter Murphy, but Revie urged him to play further forward. Sensing an advantage in condition, manager Les McDowall exhorted his players to keep possession and make their opponents chase the ball.
The period immediately after half‑time saw few chances, but then, after just over an hour's play, Manchester City regained their stride and suddenly went two goals ahead. A throw-in to Revie led to interplay on the right wing involving Barnes, Dyson, and Johnstone, resulting in a through-ball which put Dyson clear of the defence to score. Two minutes later, Trautmann collected the ball at the end of a Birmingham attack and kicked the ball long to Dyson, over the heads of the retreating Birmingham players. Dyson flicked the ball on to Bobby Johnstone, who scored Manchester City's third, becoming the first player ever to score in consecutive Wembley finals in the process.
With 17 minutes remaining, a Birmingham chance arose when Murphy outpaced Dave Ewing. Goalkeeper Trautmann dived at the feet of Murphy to win the ball, but in the collision Murphy's right knee hit Trautmann's neck with a forceful blow. Trautmann was knocked unconscious, and the referee stopped play immediately. Trainer Laurie Barnett rushed onto the pitch, and treatment continued for several minutes. No substitutes were permitted, meaning Manchester City would have to see out the game with ten men if Trautmann was unable to continue. Captain Roy Paul felt certain that Trautmann was not fit to complete the match, and wished to put Roy Little in goal instead. However, Trautmann, dazed and unsteady on his feet, insisted upon keeping his goal. He played out the remaining minutes in great pain, with the Manchester City defenders attempting to clear the ball well upfield or into the stand whenever it came near. Trautmann was called upon to make two further saves, each of which caused him to reel in agony.
No further goals were scored, and the referee blew for full-time with the final score 3–1 to Manchester City. As the players left the field, the crowd sang a chorus of "For he's a jolly good fellow" as a result of Trautmann's bravery. Roy Paul led his team up the steps to the royal box to receive Manchester City's third FA Cup. Trautmann's neck continued to cause him pain, and Prince Philip commented on its crooked state as he gave Trautmann his winner's medal. Three days later, an examination revealed that Trautmann had broken a bone in his neck.
When Manchester City's train from London reached Manchester, the team were greeted by an open-top bus, which embarked on a journey to Albert Square, Manchester. After the reception, the bus headed to Belle Vue Pleasure Gardens, near the club's former home of Hyde Road in east Manchester, where the Manchester Evening Chronicle held a function.
On their return to Birmingham, the Birmingham City team also went on an open-top bus around the city and received a civic welcome. Boyd told the thousands gathered outside the Council House that the team felt they had let the supporters down. Though the crowds roared "No!", there were recriminations concerning Birmingham's team selection. The row at half-time did little for second-half morale, but speaking fifty years later, Gil Merrick placed the blame less on Boyd's questionable fitness than on a failure to discuss how to stop Revie.
Alex Govan, convinced that "if Roy Warhurst had been fit then there would only have been one winner", blamed "bad team selection", saying that even without Warhurst he firmly believed "that if Badham had been in we would have won that game. He would never have given Don Revie the room to run the match. Warhurst himself believed the selection of Newman "meant the team had to adapt its style and in the end we used different tactics to those that had been successful all season".
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