(Or If The FA Cup had kept 1-11 Numbering in Force)
By Jim Hearson
- MOJ note: huge apologies to Jim, who had this written ages ago – it should have been published to coincide with previous rounds of the cup. Part 3 (2012-21) will align with the final, we promise
Last time, we renumbered the FA Cup finals from 1993 to 2001, so now it’s time to plough even further into the 21st century, albeit with some familiar faces from the back end of the 20th.
2002: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Ray Parlour (15) has been a recurring character in this series and he’s back again as Arsenal return to winning ways in the final. He’s in a central position this time, but he can claim the 7 shirt again, as the Gunners’ midfield contains all the right numbers, just not necessarily in the right order.
Lauren (12) and Sol Campbell (23) taking 2 and 5, respectively, is a comfortable fix but – despite his goalscoring exploits – Thierry Henry (14) wearing 9 feels a little incongruous. Some may say that Franny Jeffers – its usual owner – may not have suited that number, given his lack of return, but we wouldn’t be so mean.
2003: Arsenal 1 Southampton 0
Yes, it’s Arsenal again, but at least we have different players to give numbers to this time around. From last year, Henry (14) can keep 9 and Lauren (12) can wear 2 again, despite Oleh Luzhnyi’s (22) preference for it at Dynamo Kyiv and international level. Instead, we’ll roll out the reverse Zamarano again and give him 4, despite it generally being a midfielder’s number at Arsenal.
That leaves Gilberto Silva (19) with the 6, as we’re giving Ray Parlour (15) the 11 shirt in this one. Why? Sorry for the spoilers, but this is the last team he’ll feature in this series and seeing as though he gave up the 11 shirt in the 1993 replay, it feels only fitting that he should reclaim it now.
2004: Manchester United 3 Millwall 0
It’s always tempting to manufacture a rogue number choice when a keeper needs theirs fixing, but that way madness lies, so Tim Howard (14) can take Manchester United’s vacant 1 shirt here. In front of him, Mikael Silvestre (27) and John O’Shea (22) can take their positionally appropriate 5 and 3, respectively.
It’s a bit trickier further forward, as there’s an argument that Nicky Butt’s 8 shirt wouldn’t look out of place on the back of Darren Fletcher (24), Roy Keane (16) or Paul Scholes (18). We’ll give it to Fletcher, as he’s the marginally more forward-facing of him and Keane, who can sport 4. Scholes in 9 isn’t perfect, but it’s half his usual number, so that’s… something?
2005: Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0 (aet, Arsenal won 5-4 on penalties)
By this stage, Lauren (12) will just sigh wearily and just take the 2 shirt without being asked, which is good of him. While he’s relying on what’s gone before, for his defensive colleagues, we’re looking towards the future, with Kolo Toure (28) and Philippe Senderos (20) getting the 5 and 6, respectively, that they would ultimately be given ahead of the 2006-07 season.
Once again, the desirability of the number 8 raises its head. We could spin it either way – Cesc Fabregas (15) could have it as it’s double the number 4 that he showed a great affinity for throughout his career, or Gilberto (19) could claim the number he regularly wore for Brazil. Seeing as Fabregas ultimately did get his favoured number at Arsenal, we’ll let Gilberto have his here, with Cesc taking 11.
2006: Liverpool 3 West Ham 3 (3-1 on penalties)
Oh look, it’s Liverpool and their idiosyncratic numbering again! It’s not surprising that Pepe Reina (25) was so popular on Merseyside, as he fits this pattern perfectly, having been a stranger to the number 1 jersey throughout his career. However, he’s having it here, whether he likes it or not.
Jamie Carragher (23) could feasibly take 5 here, with it both suiting his positioning and allowing for further reverse Zamaranoing, yet he actually never wore it outside of a B international for England. For the full international team, he actually wore 2 more often and, as it follows that great Anfield tradition, he can have it here too.
The tradition continues in midfield, with a 5 and 11 pairing. Mo Sissoko (22) can have the former – being the more destructive player and the fact he wore it in his final season at Juventus – and Xabi Alonso (14) can sport the latter. That leaves Peter Crouch (15) with 10 and as he wore it a few times for England, that’ll do for us.
2007: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0 (aet)
International football’s adherence to 1-11 until recent years has given us a lot of ways out in this series and same is true for Chelsea’s backline here. Paulo Ferreira (20), John Terry (26) and Wayne Bridge (18) were often found in 2, 6 and 3, respectively, for their national teams, so the same can apply in this instance.
In midfield, Didier Drogba’s love of 11 means that 9 is going spare without any really suitable candidates. It certainly makes more sense for Shaun Wright-Phillips (24) to wear 7 as a right winger – despite him swerving it throughout his career – meaning we’ll have to cope with Mikel John Obi (12) donning 9. He always looked odd in 10 for Nigeria, so this isn’t too much more incongruous.
2008: Portsmouth 1 Cardiff City 0
Thank god, some fresh meat to sink our teeth into – and this one will take some chewing. To start with, we’ve got Glen Johnson wearing 5 at right-back and Hermann Hreidarsson with 7 on the other side. Buckle up, buttercup…
Tidying up the traditional full-back numbers first, they can stay in the defensive line. While Sol Campbell (23) and Sylvain Distin (15) don’t have a great affinity with either number, Campbell wore 2 at the 1998 World Cup for some reason, and Distin is left-footed and was a makeshift left-back at times, so he can have 3.
Into the midfield, Pedro Mendes (30) can reclaim the 8 shirt he wore at Spurs before he moved to the south coast, Niko Kranjcar (19) suits 10 – and wore it at Hajduk Split – while John Utaka (17) can squeeze into 9, given that there were occasions when he played further forward than his right-wing berth here.
Why not give it to a striker? Most of the time, absolutely that’s what would happen, but when the striker in question is Nwankwo Kanu and you have the number 4 spare, it would be cultural vandalism to deny him the number he wore with distinction for the Super Eagles.
2009: Everton 1 Chelsea 2
Unlike his Portuguese predecessor, Jose Bosingwa (17) never actually wore number 2, so we’re hard pushed to give it to him here, but he’s playing right-back and everything else fits nicely, so tough. Terry (26) can wear 6 again, while Alex (33) wore 4 in his PSV days, so we’ve got precedent on our side.
Nicolas Anelka (39) wearing 9 writes itself, while Florent Malouda sported number 7 in his early days of playing for France. While we did question the oddness of Mikel (12) wearing 10 for Nigeria, it gives us sufficient excuse to thrust it upon him this time around.
2010: Chelsea 1 Portsmouth 0
Yes, it’s Chelsea again, but it’s not going to be a case of copying and pasting last year… entirely. Terry (26) can keep 6, Malouda (15) 7 and Anelka (39) 9, but Alex (33) can switch it up to the 5 shirt, as we’re not having a non-Liverpool midfielder wearing it.
Instead, Michael Ballack (13) can perform the ol’ reverse Zamarano to wear 4, while Salomon Kalou (21) can wear 10 – it was never a number he sported in reality, but it wouldn’t look too odd with it on his shirt, would it?
2011: Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0
We finish part two with a new name for the series and boy, is it a humdinger – the Manchester City team that beat Stoke only included two players with 1-11 numbers. In theory, this would make it easy to throw the other nine out by positional appropriateness, but we’ll try to find decent reasons all the same.
Joe Hart (25) ultimately claimed 1 at City and repeatedly wore it for England – plus, ya know, he’s a goalkeeper – so that’s him sorted. Joleon Lescott (19) actually wore 6 later on in his City career, but on balance, that’s better distributed elsewhere, so he can wear the 5 that wore at Wolves and Everton. It’s a similar story for Aleksandar Kolarov (13) – he later wore 11 for City, as he did through much of his career, but he wore 3 at Lazio and his early international career, and we’re not monsters, so he’s having it here too.
Both Gareth Barry (18) and Nigel de Jong (34) could both feasibly claim that fabled 6 shirt, having both worn it during their careers. The ever-youthful-looking Englishman gets the nod through his prolonged spell wearing it at Villa, while the Dutchman donned 8 for Hamburg and the Netherlands, as well as his farewell tour in Qatar.
Mario Balotelli (45) wore 9 for Nice and Italy, so he represents an easy fix, while David Silva was so wedded to 21 during his career, there’s no precedent for anything else – but he played on the right and 21 is divisible by 7, so that’s good enough for us.
This leaves us with Yaya Toure (42) and Carlos Tevez (32), and the 10 and 11 shirts. It’d be simple to give 10 to Tevez, given his history with it for Boca, but out of the two numbers available, it just feels a better fit than 11 for Toure, who was a stranger to 1-11 through his career. What’s more, Tevez frequently wore 11 for Argentina, which rights it in our minds.