The 1927 FA Cup Final was an association football match between Cardiff City and Arsenal on 23 April 1927 at the original Wembley Stadium (then called Empire Stadium). The showpiece match of English football's primary cup competition, the Football Association Challenge Cup (better known as the FA Cup), it was the first such final to be broadcast on the radio. The victory by Cardiff marked the only occasion in the history of the tournament that the trophy had been won by a team outside England; the Cup had previously been referred to in the press as the "English Cup".
Each team had progressed through five rounds to reach the final, having each entered in the third round. Both teams required a single replay in different rounds to progress, but otherwise won each of their games. In the fifth round, Cardiff knocked the reigning champions, Bolton Wanderers out of the cup. Both teams had a mixture of home and away games on their route to the final, but Arsenal were not required to play outside of London after the initial fourth round match. By the quarter-finals, the two teams were the only Football League Division One teams left in the competition.
Arsenal had injury problems with Horace Cope ruled out. Additional trains were put on to get Cardiff's fans to Wembley, and police reinforcements to keep fans at bay who had been sold fake tickets. A concert was held prior to the game, which included the first rendition of Abide with Me, which has since become a cup final tradition. It was the first FA Cup Final broadcast on the radio, which coined the phrase "back to square one". The match was watched by 91,206 in the stadium, and a further 15,000 fans listened in Cardiff's Cathays Park to the radio broadcast.
Both teams had opportunities to score, but the only goal of the game was credited to Hughie Ferguson after the ball slipped out of the hands of goalkeeper Dan Lewis, and he knocked the ball into the net with his elbow. Afterwards, he blamed his new wool jersey, saying that it was greasy. This resulted in the Arsenal tradition of washing goalkeeper jerseys before every match. Following the match, the press called it the "Singing Final" and highlighted that the FA Cup had gone to Wales for the first time. In the following years, Cardiff suffered a decline in their fortunes and didn't reach the FA Cup final again until 2008. Arsenal won the trophy in 1930 and went on to become the most successful team in the history of the tournament.
Cardiff City began their campaign for the 1926–27 FA Cup with a home game at Ninian Park in front of around 30,000 fans against Aston Villa. After a goalless first half, Cardiff scored twice via a header by Len Davies and a shot by Ernie Curtis. Aston Villa attempted to save the match, but were unable to score until goalkeeper Tom Farquharson scored an own goal after turning in a shot by Villa forward Arthur Dorrell. In the fourth round, Cardiff played Darlington away. Newspaper reports indicated that they were the better team, but had it not been for the success of Darlington's defence then they would have won by greater than the two goal margin they achieved. Goals came from George McLachlan and Hughie Ferguson.
In the fifth round, Cardiff were drawn away against Bolton Wanderers, the reigning FA Cup champions. In front of a crowd of 49,465 in Bolton, Cardiff won by two goals to nil, with further goals from Ferguson and Davies. Following this round, alongside Arsenal, they were one of only two teams from the Football League First Division who remained in the competition. After an initial goalless draw in the following round against Chelsea, Cardiff played them once again at Ninian Park in the replay. Sam Irving put the Welsh team ahead after nine minutes, before Davies made it two on 21 minutes. Chelsea received a penalty, but the shot by Andrew Wilson was saved by Farquharson. Albert Thain scored for Chelsea a minute before half time. Bob Turnbull equalised for Chelsea, four minutes into the second half. A further penalty was given, this time to Cardiff after Harry Wilding handled the ball. This time, Ferguson scored, putting Cardiff ahead once more and winning them the match.
In the semi-finals Cardiff were drawn against Reading; the match was played at Molineux Stadium. Reading had reached the semi-final for the first time in their history. Additional trains were put on to bring Cardiff fans to Wolverhampton for the match, and there was an expectation that the game would set a new capacity record for the ground. Heavy rain had fallen before the match, resulting in a soft pitch. Reading appeared the stronger of the two teams at the start, but at 25 minutes Bert Eggo failed to clear the ball from the Reading penalty area and Ferguson pounced, scoring for Cardiff. This changed the match, which from then on was dominated by the Welsh. A further goal followed in the 35th minute from Harry Wake, sending Cardiff into half time two goals ahead. Reading pressed on initially during the second half, but Cardiff gradually regained domination of play, and Ferguson scored his second of the game in the 70th minute. Cardiff's fans began to celebrate early, believing that Reading could not come back from three goals down, which was the final result of the game.
Arsenal were drawn away in the third round, against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Both teams scored rapidly, with three goals scored in the space of six minutes. The first as the result of a scramble which ended with Jimmy Brain heading the ball into the net for Arsenal. United quickly responded, equalising from a header by Harry Johnson. But Arsenal went ahead once more following a goal by Charlie Buchan. David Mercer equalised once more for Sheffield after 40 minutes, to keep the scores level going into half-time. Joe Hulme scored the final goal of the match, and the winner for Arsenal, in the 60th minute.
Arsenal were nearly eliminated from the competition in the following round when they played Port Vale. After eight minutes, Tom Parker scored an own goal, putting Port Vale ahead. Buchan equalised for Arsenal early in the second half, but then Port Vale went ahead once more with a goal by Wilf Kirkham, as a rebounded shot after Dan Lewis saved the initial penalty. Arsenal chased a further equaliser, which came four minutes from time by Brain.
There were far less goals scored in the replay at Arsenal Stadium. After a snow flurry, the ground was left muddy and the play was mostly limited to long balls. Brain hit the post in the first half, with was then followed by the only goal of the game came shortly afterwards following a run by Buchan into the Port Vale box. From here on, Arsenal did not have to leave London at all in the competition. In the following round, they defeated Liverpool by two goals to nil, the same scoreline seen in the league earlier in the season. This was Liverpool's first defeat of the year. Both the goals came as a result of indirect free kicks in rapid succession. First a header by Brain, then another by Buchan which the goalkeeper could only clear after it had crossed the line.
In the quarter final against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Arsenal initially went down by a goal but an equaliser was gained after a further 15 minutes by Billy Blyth. Both teams had good attacks on goal throughout the rest of the game, but the only further goal came following a header by Joe Hulme for Arsenal after a run and a cross from Jack Butler. The draw for the semi-final saw Arsenal play Southampton at Stamford Bridge. The muddy state of the pitch hampered the normal pace of the play shown by Arsenal, but both Buchan and Hulme scored for the gunners to Southampton's single response by Bill Rawlings. Southampton were denied two penalty appeals.
Cardiff City had previously reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup twice, and two years earlier in 1925, they were defeated finalists. The 1927 final was the first for Arsenal, so as a result whoever won the match would take the trophy for the first time. Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman held a press conference prior to the final on 21 April, where he announced that Horace Cope was injured and would be unable to play at left back. He doubted whether Syd Hoar or Alf Baker would be available as both of those were still recovering, and so he was leaving the selections for both the right half and outside left positions open should they become fit before the game. He saw Bill Seddon and Sam Haden as the alternatives should his first choice players not recover. When asked about who would win the game, he promised the press an answer after the match. In the end, both Baker and Hoar were named to the Arsenal team. The Arsenal team trained in Highbury on their own pitch prior to the final.
Cardiff City prepared for the final at Southport, Lancashire, at the Palace Hotel. The players kept relaxed with massages, games of bowls and salt baths. On the day before the match travelled to Harrow on the Hill where they stayed at the Kings Head Hotel. They were open with the press about their tactics, saying they hoped to subdue Arsenal's attack by having Billy Hardy keep Buchan at bay. Cardiff were free to choose their first choice team, unhindered by injuries. They selected the same team as had featured against Reading in the semi-final, with the exception of Harry Wake, despite his experience from playing in the FA Cup final two seasons prior.
Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Lloyd George, as well as future Prime Minister Winston Churchill were in attendance for the match. The press billed the match as England versus Wales, and noted that the Welsh fans included high numbers of woman as well as mothers with babies. There were special trains laid on for the Cardiff fans, which began arriving at Paddington train station from 4am onwards. The Metropolitan Railway put on additional trains to commute fans from Baker Street station to Wembley Park; one every two minutes. Between 11am to kick off, 30,000 fans per hour travelled this route; some 100,000 fans were expected to arrive at the ground. The Welsh fans made special excursions across London; some travelled to St. Paul's Cathedral, where they sang Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Other fans went to The Cenotaph, Whitehall, where they dressed it in Welsh colours to honour the veterans of the First World War.
As the Cardiff team bus arrived at the stadium, the fans threw leeks at the vehicle. The team had adopted a black cat for the occasion, which Ferguson had found wandering astray prior to their earlier match with Bolton and decided it was a good omen. He found the owners of the animal, who agreed to let the club keep the cat in return for two final tickets if they progressed that far. Police reinforcements were required at Empire Stadium, as at 1pm a large number of people had gathered outside the ticket office in a threatening manner. A large number of fake tickets had been sold to members of the crowd, and the stewards were refusing to allow them entry.
A community concert began inside stadium at 1:50pm, led by the bands of the Grenadier and Irish Guards. Songs included Abide with Me, performed at an FA Cup final for the first time, but would go on to become a pre-match tradition. Loud cheers were heard forty minutes later during the concert to celebrate the arrival of King George V. As the players entered the field, the King shook hands with each of them, as well as the officials; the referee W.E. Bunnell from Preston, and the linesmen G.E. Watson from Kent and M. Brewitt from Lincoln. The match was the first cup final to be broadcast on the radio by the BBC, as well as nearly 93,000 fans inside the stadium. The phrase "back to square one" was created during the broadcast; square one was the term used to describe an area nearest to one of the goals.
Keenor won the coin toss for Cardiff City, and so Ferguson kicked off the match. Shortly afterwards Arsenal won a free kick and the ball went into Cardiff's penalty area for the first time but Tom Watson cleared it for Cardiff. Irving went on a run on the right side of the pitch, but Arsenal defender Andy Kennedy stopped the play. Arsenal went on the attack again, with Sloan dodging several tackles but a pass to Hoar caused the chance to break down as he had moved offside. A direct free kick was given to Arsenal shortly afterwards, but the shot by Parker from 25 yards (23 m) was saved by Farquharson for Cardiff. Combined play by Hulme and Buchan led to a corner, which then forced another three in a rapid succession. However, Arsenal couldn't capitalise on the opportunities and the final corner ended in the ball being shot a distance over the bar. The first half ended, Arsenal having dominated but the Cardiff City defence had stopped them each time. There was an incident in the crowd during the first half, at the 25th minute around 400 spectators outside the stadium rushed a gate being manned by four policemen. Reinforcements arrived and managed to push the crowd back when they reached the turnstiles.
Arsenal again went on the attack as the second half began, with another corner won following a header by Buchan. Hulme drifted in a well placed cross, but nothing was made of it. It was then Cardiff's turn to attack. Curtis sent in a low shot which was saved by Lewis in the Arsenal goal. Shortly afterwards, Butler, the Arsenal midfielder, was struck hard in the face by the ball causing a brief delay to play. The game resumed, and McLachlan took it down the wing for Cardiff, who passed it to Davies, but his shot was just wide of the post. Buchan attempted to return the game to Arsenal's tempo, with a long pass to the left wing for Hoar, but Cardiff City's James Nelson had him covered. City's attacking continued, and a chance was had by Hardy which appeared to shake Lewis in goal as the keeper didn't gather the ball cleanly.
The only goal of the game followed shortly thereafter. Curtis went on a run for Cardiff, who passed it forward near the box to Ferguson. He shot the ball towards the goal, but it had little power and was easily picked up by Lewis. However, as he did so, the ball squirmed out of Lewis' hands and slipped in between the crook of his left elbow and body. With a couple of Cardiff City forwards closing in, Lewis tried to reclaim the ball but only succeeded in knocking it into the net with his elbow. Arsenal sought to attack immediately after the kick off, but despite it looking promising, Brain was caught offside. Cardiff countered, and possibly could have had a second goal, but Curtis chose to shoot himself rather than pass to Davies, who would have been presented with an open goal had he received the ball as Lewis was out of position. The match ended with a victory for Cardiff City by one goal to nil. The King presented the trophy to Cardiff's captain Keenor, and medals to each of the players from both teams.
The Cardiff City victory in the 1927 FA Cup Final remains the only time that the trophy has been won by a team outside of England. At the time it had been referred to as the "English Cup". This was a highlight of the coverage in the press afterwards, as was the volume of singing that took place during the proceedings. The article in the Hull Daily Mail even went as far as to suggest that the match would be remembered for the singing specifically, calling it the "Singing Final". There was an open air radio broadcast of the match in Cathays Park attended by 15,000 fans, and after the victory the team's colours were strung throughout the city, and local shopkeepers made replicas of the trophy out of butter to display in shop windows. After the match, the Cardiff team headed to a hotel in Bloomsbury before heading to Windsor and Eton College on the following day. They toured the College, and some of the players visited Windsor Castle. They headed back to Cardiff later that day from Paddington station, where they arrived at 6:35pm. They were met by motor coaches and a band, and driven to the City Hall. Some 150,000 fans lined the streets of Cardiff to welcome the team back home. After leading some communal singing outside of the City Hall, the team and their wives later attended a dinner and dance in the building. While some press reports claimed that Keenor had said that the team were lucky to have won, he refuted the claim, saying that the superiority of Cardiff's defence that led them to victory.
Lewis blamed a new jersey for the mistake that resulted in the goal, saying that the wool was greasy and allowed the ball to slip from his grip. As tradition ever since, Arsenal goalkeepers have always washed their jerseys before each game. The Arsenal captain, Buchan, praised the Cardiff team saying "My congratulations to Cardiff City on being the first club in history to take the Cup out of England. We did our very utmost to prevent them from doing so, but we did not succeed. As, however, the trophy is gone to Cardiff, there is no one who more heartily congratualtes them than the captain of the losers. Cardiff played an honest, clean game, each member of the team obviously striving to do his utmost and my final works are Good luck to the City and good luck to Wales and its Association football now that they have the Cup."
Cardiff qualified for 1927 FA Charity Shield, where they defeated amateur team Corinthian by two goals to one with the winning goal once again by Ferguson. Their fortunes subsequently declined occurred quickly afterwards. Within four years, they had been relegated to the Football League Third Division South. Keenor remained captain during this period, and left the club after 19 years to transfer to Crewe Alexandra F.C. during the 1930–31 football season. In 1934, Cardiff slipped further and were required to petition the Football Association to allow them to remain in the league after they finished last and were eligible to be removed from the competition. Cardiff's Ernie Curtis, who died in November 1992 at the age of 85, was the last surviving player from the final. He had been the youngest player in the match, aged 19 years and 317 days. Cardiff reached the FA Cup Final once more in 2008 FA Cup Final; where they lost by one goal to nil against Portsmouth.
Arsenal returned to the FA Cup Final in 1930, where they played Huddersfield Town, the former team of Arsenal's manager Herbert Chapman. They won the match by two goals to nil, marking the first major trophy to be won by the team. This began a period of success for the club, with two back to back league titles, first under Chapman and then under George Allison after Chapman's death. A further victory in the FA Cup followed in 1936 against Sheffield United. They have gone on to be the most successful club in the tournament; as of 2015, they have appeared in 19 finals, winning on 12 occasions.