City were still reeling from a second Wembley failure by the time they started on what would prove to be a memorable 1934F A Cup trail.
Thrashed 3-0 by Everton the previous April, skipper Sam Cowan (pictured above) promised he would lead his team back to Wembley the following season – and this time leave with the trophy rather than a losers’ medals.
The Blues had enjoyed some impressive FA Cup crowds the previous season , but nothing could have prepared the club for the record numbers that would see Maine Road packed to the rafters as cup fever gripped the city.
Boss Wilf Wild was hoping it would be third time lucky for his talented team who had reached the semi-final in 1932 and gone all the way to the final tie in 1933.
The form around Christmas had been a concern to Wild whose team had recently lost 8-0 to Wolves, 4-1 to Derby County and 7-2 at home to West Brom - results that put a severe dent in the Blues’ title hopes and often came out of the blue.
The quest for silverware began in earnest with a third round home game against six-time FA Cup winners Blackburn Rovers. Watched by 54,336 people - the largest crowd of the day, Eric Brook put City ahead before Rovers levelled.
The Blues held firm and a brace from Ernie Toseland either side of the break secured a 3-1 win and a passage into the next round
...FA Cup glory 1934...
The fourth round draw appeared kinder, with a trip to struggling Division Two outfit Hull City who were battling against relegation. On paper, it looked like a walk in the park, but the cup has always been a great leveller.
City, however, appeared to have one foot in the fifth round by half-time with Alec Herd and Brook giving Wild’s side a 2-0 lead, but the game was far from over and roared on by a packed Boothferry Park, the Tigers finally roared and earned a shock 2-2 draw, their second courtesy of a Bill Dale own goal.
Nonetheless, the City fans welcomed another opportunity to sample the magic of the FA Cup and almost 50,000 turned out on a damp, cool Wednesday afternoon to watch the Blues comprehensively dismantle the Humberside outfit 4-1.
Fred Tilson scored twice and Toseland and Bobby Marshall completed the rout to set up a mouth-watering battle of the roses between City and Sheffield Wednesday at Maine Road. The Owls had already won the league fixture 3-2 on the opening day of the campaign and fancied their chances against a City team who had lost back-to-back league games.
An astonishing crowd of 72,841 crammed into Maine Road but two goals from Herd was not enough to edge past Wednesday who held on for a 2-2 draw. The City fans, however, could not get enough of the competition and believed the tie was far from over.
...FA Cup glory 1934...
Though it’s difficult to put an exact number on the amount of travelling fans that journeyed across the Pennines for the replay, anywhere between 20,000 and upwards is perhaps an educated guess. Hillsborough was not ready for the Mancunian exodus and, tragically, there were many casualties including one man who was crushed and died on the terracing which simply could not cope with the swell of the massive 72,841 crowd.
City were magnificent in a replay again played on Wednesday afternoon and triumphed 2-0 thanks to goals from Marshall and Tilson. Suddenly, Wembley was again within sight and two more victories would give Cowan the chance to ensure his promise was kept.
The Blues were paired with Stoke City in the quarter-final, who had a 19-yearold Stanley Matthews among their number and thousands of Potters fans travelled up to Maine Road for a game that would be talked about for decades as well as re-writing the history books.
It was a game, it seems, everyone wanted to see and a crowd of 84,569 somehow squeezed into the stadium – a record outside London that still stands almost 80 years on and Brook’s superb goal settled a game the hosts deservedly won.
Brook (pictured above) picked up the ball out on the left flank before curling a cross into the top corner of Roy John’s net to send the crowd into raptures. Whether he’d meant it or not, it was a stunning goal and worthy of the occasion, though the dangers of such unrestricted numbers meant hundreds passed out in the crush and the ambulance crews were kept busy throughout.
City were in the semi-final and faced and Aston Villa side who had dumped out three-times winners Arsenal to reach the last four. A tight game was predicted but the Blues were by now unstoppable and Tilson was in magnificent form, firing four goals in a 6-1 thrashing of Villa at Huddersfield’s Leeds Road.
Herd and Toseland were also on target against Villa as City made it back-to-back Wembley appearances and though the previous two visits had ended in despair as Bolton triumphed 1-0 1926 and Everton 3-0 in ’33, there was a feeling that this was the Blues’ year.
Portsmouth had also made it to the final and were safe in mid-table while City were still chasing a top five finish – both teams had won their home league fixture so it was hard to call to predict who would return home with the trophy. Interestingly, Wembley officials noted the demand for meat pies went through the roof whenever a team from the north visited!
The game itself proved a nerve-shredding occasion for those who had made the journey from Manchester. Septimus Rutherford saw his shot squeeze through Frank Swift’s fingers and into the net on 28 minutes to give Pompey the lead and with barely 15 remaining, City still trailed by that solitary strike.
But the Blues’ weren’t finished. With 74 minutes gone and Portsmouth temporarily reduced to ten men through injury, Brook found Tilson and the City striker lashed home the equaliser to send half of Wembley’s 93,258 crowd crazy
...FA Cup glory 1934...
City pressed for a winner and on 88 minutes, it came as Tilson fired home Herd’s cross high into the net for a dramatic winner and ensure the Blues’ second FA Cup success. The occasion proved too much for Swift who promptly fainted on the final whistle but the celebrations of an unforgettable day and a breathless cup campaign would live long in the memory.
And Sam Cowan had kept his promise!