By the time of George Graham's appointment as manager, Leeds United were growing accustomed to under-achievement in the FA Cup. None of his predecessors had succeeded in emulating the club's acquisition of the trophy in 1972.
Leeds United 1
FA Cup 4th Round
Tuesday, February 5, 1997
A fourth-round draw sending Leeds to Arsenal in 1997 was expected to be the end of the road for that particular year.
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United had lost 3-0 at Highbury four months earlier and were given only a cursory chance. The upset they produced had bookmakers scrambling to cut the odds about Graham's squad winning the entire competition.
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Rod Wallace's goal in the 12th minute left Graham basking in the satisfaction of a win against the club he had managed brilliantly for nine, trophy-laden years.
At the final whistle, Leeds were installed as second favourites to lift the FA Cup, their price cut further by Manchester United's defeat to Wimbledon.
The tournament had already lost a number of other main players, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur among them, and only eventual winners Chelsea were credited with a better chance than Graham's squad.
The Scot was reluctant to discuss anything other than United's fifth-round tie at Portsmouth but he saw significance in an unexpected victory at Highbury.
"The revolution has started," he said. "I'm determined to bring Leeds United the success they deserve.
"Arsenal are a very good side and I really mean that. They've got a great chance of winning the Championship. They've got top players here and although I could take credit for that, I'm not going to. I just want to enjoy the moment."
Wallace's toe-poke gave United a lead to defend early in the game and the performance of their goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn, was solely responsible for keeping it intact.
England manager Glenn Hoddle was in attendance at Highbury, there to watch Arsenal's Paul Merson, but he was faced at full-time with the question of why no place had been found for Martyn in the squad chosen by him for a forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Italy. Four other keepers were chosen instead.
Martyn made three crucial saves from Ian Wright, Arsenal's prolific striker, and saw his luck hold when a late John Hartson header hit the frame of United's goal. The man-of-the-match award was a foregone conclusion by full-time.
"Glenn Hoddle didn't speak to me about Nigel's form," Graham said. "That disappointed me. I had (Arsenal goalkeeper) David Seaman for six years and I've had Nigel for six months and they're in the same bracket.
"I'm absolutely astounded that he's not even in the squad."
International wrangling was nevertheless a minor issue at the end of an exhausting tie. Wallace's chance was one of few created by Leeds, taken at the second attempt after his first shot rolled beyond a hesitant
Seaman and struck the foot of a post.
"We lacked patience," said Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, "and we had a bad start with an unlucky goal."
Arsenal's exit and the fall of other major seeds meant that, for the first time since 1975, the FA Cup final would go ahead without the Gunners, Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool or Spurs.
The size of the opportunity missed was monumental when Leeds succumbed to Portsmouth 11 days later.
United: Martyn, Kelly, Dorigo, Halle, Molenaar, Harte, Palmer, Bowyer (Wetherall 64), Jackson, Wallace (Rush 78), Deane. Sub (not used): Beeney.