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You are in: Somerset > History > History features > Historic People > Recounting Yeovil's historic FA Cup giant killing

Rex Rainey leading the players out (Pic: Slope and Glory)

Over 80,000 fans saw them at Maine Road

Recounting Yeovil's historic FA Cup giant killing

Sixty years ago Yeovil Town FC were the shock giant killers of the FA Cup, beating the impressive 'Bank of England' side, Sunderland. Find out how they did it here.

Football post-war was chaotic as everything else in Britain, but amidst it all Yeovil Town F.C. made the brave decision to appoint Alec Stock as their player-manager.

Yeovil mascot Rex Rainey shakes hands with Sunderland captain Fred Hall with Glovers' player-manager Ales Stock (Pic: Slope and Glory)

Alan Stock and Sunderland's Fred Hall

Slowly Alec managed to mould a squad he could rely on, although it wasn't without its setbacks. In 1947 Yeovil made the short trip to Street, confident of victory. The 'Giantkillers' were 'Giantkilled' losing 2-0, so embarrassed was Stock with the performance he ordered his players straight onto the coach after the match telling his players they could have a bath when they got back to Yeovil.

The following season's cup run was to put it mildly a vast improvement. However the cup run so nearly never happened, in the first round against lowly Lovells Athletic Yeovil were 2-0 down at half time.

It was only after an extremely fortuitous own goal by a Lovells defender that Yeovil stepped up a gear eventually running out 3-2 winners.

An in-form Romford side were the visitors to Huish for the next round and in front of 8,638 fans Yeovil produced a much better performance thrashing the side from Essex 4-0.

'Bank of England'

Three thousand Yeovil fans made the train journey down to Weymouth for the second round clash against their fierce rivals. Memories of Street were well and truly wiped out with Town again winning 4-0 and again Bryant, Hamilton and Hargreaves getting on the scoresheet.

Alan Stock tosses the coin before the Bury game (Pic: Slope and Glory)

Alan Stock tosses a coin before Bury

Yeovil were rewarded with a tie at home to Bury who were flying high near the top of the second tier of English football.

Alec Stock used all his psychological skills by exaggerating the extent of the slope at Huish Park. Despite only sloping 6ft from one side to the other, one paper recorded it as sloping 14 feet.

The Bury players clearly couldn’t handle the conditions or Yeovil's determined and skillful football. Yeovil won 3-1 with Hargreaves, Wright and Hamilton scoring to send Yeovil into the 4th Round.

'Greatest Ever Giant killing'

Next up were the expensively assembled squad Sunderland, known as the 'Bank of England' side. Sunderland had the 'David Beckham' of the time, Len Shackleton in their ranks and the 'Crown Prince of Soccer' was widely expected to lead his team to victory.

Over 18,000 packed into Huish and those lucky enough to squeeze in witnessed football history.

The Yeovil Town squad weigh themselves on the scales at Weston-Super-Mare public baths ahead of the big game (Pic: Slope and Glory)

Weighing themselves at WSM's baths

Yeovil came steaming out of the traps and Sunderland struggled from then on. After going close on a couple of occasions Yeovil scored first with a cracking effort from just outside the penalty area from their player-manager Alec Stock.

Even when Sunderland did create a chance Dickie Dyke (playing only his second game for the club) repelled everything that was thrown at him. His one mistake however led to a Sunderland equalizer in the second half, as he dropped the ball at the feet of Robinson who settled the scores.

The match then went into extra-time as there were no replays in those days due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of fuel shortages. A blanket of fog descended on the ground and very nearly forced a halt to proceedings.

Luckily for Yeovil the match continued and Eric Bryant scored a momentous goal. Wright capatilized on a rare Shackleton error and fed Bryant who raced onto a through ball and lashed the ball home sparking wild celebrations.

However Yeovil still had 15 minutes to hold on, a task made no easier when eager fans mistook the referee's whistle for a free kick as the signal for full time. Thousands ran out to the pitch prematurely to celebrate, but were quickly corralled by the players to let the game finish.

Ralph Davis makes sure teammate Bobby Hamilton is in the best shape by giving him a spoonful of glucose (Pic: Slope and Glory)

The players had glucose before the match

Soon they were back on the pitch celebrating a truly remarkable achievement, one voted by the FA website in 2005 as the 'Greatest Ever Giantkilling'.

Their reward - and what a reward it was - an away tie against Manchester United. Over 80,000 packed into Maine Road (Old Trafford was still damaged from the bombing during the war) but it was a step to far for the brave Yeovil players.

United managed by Sir Matt Busby ran out 8-0 winners, although it must be noted that Yeovil keeper Stan Hall suffered a serious injury early on in the game and in the days of no substitutes had to soldier on.

The historic FA Cup run had ended, but Yeovil Town would forever be associated with FA Cup giantkilling, a tradition that saw them defeat 20 Football League clubs until they eventually become one themselves in 2003.

You can find out more about Yeovil's historic FA Cup match by getting  ‘Slope and Glory’ a 48 page magazine which commemorates this historic period for £3. It is available at the following shops in Yeovil; A Touch of Glass, Mad Hatters and WHSmith. It is also available in the Yeovil Town Club Shop. Alternatively email to purchase online or by cheque.

last updated: 05/02/2009 at 15:40
created: 04/02/2009

You are in: Somerset > History > History features > Historic People > Recounting Yeovil's historic FA Cup giant killing

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