The missing piece of the Leicester City jigsaw: Can Foxes lift first FA Cup against Chelsea?

Lifelong Leicester fan Jordan Halford reflects on the club's unenviable record of four FA Cup finals without a win with fans hoping 2021 is finally the year they get to see them add the missing piece of the jigsaw

Leicester go in search of their first FA Cup trophy this weekend
Image: Leicester go in search of their first FA Cup trophy this weekend

Lifelong Leicester fan Jordan Halford reflects on whether Brendan Rodgers can cement himself into club folklore at Wembley on Saturday...

May 2, 2016 - when Claudio Ranieri's unfancied squad were crowned Premier League champions - is permanently ingrained in the memory of Leicester fans, but there are four other years that haunt them for all the wrong reasons.

Mention 1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969 to any Foxes supporter and they will immediately know what you are talking about.

Leicester hold the unenviable record of four FA Cup finals without a win and it is the only domestic trophy that has eluded them in their 137-year history.

How to follow the FA Cup final

Follow the FA Cup final as Chelsea face Leicester in our dedicated live match blog on Saturday at 4pm from Wembley; kick-off is at 5.15pm.

Given their exploits over the past five years - claiming their only top-flight title and competing in the Champions League - they have a genuine claim of being the biggest club never to win the oldest knockout competition in the world.

Wanderers, Old Etonians, Oxford University, Royal Engineers and Blackburn Olympic are some of the names you will find engraved on the base of the historic cup, while fourth-tier Bradford City, the recently extinct Bury and even Clapham Rovers, famously the only Sunday League club to win the trophy, have also completed the feat.

But can Jamie Vardy and co put an end to Leicester's hoodoo at Wembley on Saturday 52 years after their last final appearance?

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The Foxes first reached the final back in 1949, having survived relegation to the third tier by a solitary point.

Image: Jesse Pye scored twice as Wolves beat Leicester 3-1 in the 1949 final

Without two key players, goalkeeper Ian McGraw and Don Revie, they suffered a 3-1 defeat to sixth-placed Wolves who clinched their first of five trophies under Stan Cullis.

They had to wait another 12 years before the next appearance at the Old Empire Stadium, when Matt Gilles guided them to the final twice in three seasons.

Image: Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson helped Tottenham to a 2-0 win in 1961

The first of which, a 2-0 defeat against double winners Tottenham in 1961, was the first cup final to be broadcast in colour as traditional pre-movie newsreels of both Pathé and Movietone broadcast their match reports in colour to cinema viewers.

The Foxes were also forced to play for 70 minutes with just 10 men after full-back Len Chalmers damaged his right leg inside 20 minutes.

But just two years later, Gilles guided City to their second final under his tenure styled on Hungary's Magnificent Magyars of the previous decade.

Image: David Herd was the hero for Manchester United in the 1963 final

Aided by the coldest winter of the 20th century, Leicester did not play a game between Boxing Day 1962 and February 1963 before embarking on a club record of 18 games unbeaten, which stood for 46 years.

The Foxes reached the final and led the First Division with just five games remaining, but as the ice-covered pitches melted, so did their momentum and with just one win from their final nine league games the 'Ice Kings' slipped to a disappointing fourth-placed finish. A host of early missed chances then saw them slip to a 3-1 defeat in the cup final to struggling Manchester United having done the double over them in the league.

As the game was broadcast in black and white, Leicester lost the coin toss and were forced to play in their all-white away kit so television viewers could distinguish between the two sides.

Image: Manchester City's Neil Young was the scourge of Leicester in 1969

But in spite of relegation to the second tier, Leicester only had to wait six years for their third final appearance of the decade in 1969 under Frank O'Farrell against the previous season's league champions Manchester City.

At just the age of 21, Leicester's David Nish became the youngest ever captain of a cup finalist but he wasn't to get his hands on the trophy, as Neil Young's solitary strike was enough to separate the two teams in front of a capacity crowd of 100,000 beneath the famous Twin Towers.

The Foxes reached the semi-finals in both 1974 and 1982 where they were knocked out by Liverpool and Tottenham respectively, but have since failed on five occasions to reach the last four again including three successive quarter-final defeats to Saturday's opponents Chelsea.

Roy Essandoh was the unlikely match-winner for Wycombe in 2001
Image: Roy Essandoh was the unlikely match-winner for Wycombe in 2001

Other more notable recent defeats include a shock 2-1 home defeat to third tier Wycombe Wanderers in the quarter-final in 2001 at Filbert Street, when Roy Essandoh, who signed on a two-week contract after an advert on Teletext, headed a 90th minute winner past Simon Royce to send The Chairboys into the semi-finals as Steve Brown was cruelly shown the red card after taking his shirt off in the goal celebrations.

Ten-man Millwall also stunned the then Premier League champions in 2017 after Shaun Cummings' last-minute winner sent the League One side into the last eight after Jake Cooper was sent off in the 52nd minute for two bookable offences.

Millwall defeated the Foxes
Image: Leicester had the quarter-finals in their sights when they lost to Millwall

Just two years later, Newport County dumped the Foxes out in the third round at Rodney Parade thanks to Padraig Amond's late penalty.

With a staggering 74 places in the Football League pyramid between them, it was the first time The Exiles had knocked out top-flight opposition since 1964 and was the beginning of the end for Leicester manager Claude Puel.

But under his successor Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes currently sit third in the Premier League and amidst the controversial proposals for a breakaway European Super League, have a legitimate claim to have gate-crashed the self-proclaimed 'Big Six' at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur and record 14-time FA Cup winners Arsenal.

Newport dumped Leicester out
Image: Newport dumped Leicester out in the third round in 2019

When the Northern Irishman arrived at the King Power Stadium in February 2019, the Foxes sat 11th in the Premier League, 18 points off the top four and had scored only 34 goals in 28 games but 108 matches into his stewardship, they have won 59, scored 199 goals and are averaging 1.8 points per game.

They have been in the top four for all but one week since the early stages of the 2019/20 season, where they eventually finished a disappointing fifth after winning only seven points in the last eight games and missing out on Champions League qualification with a final day defeat at home to Manchester United.

But victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side at Old Trafford on Tuesday means just one more win over Chelsea or Tottenham will secure qualification to Europe's elite club competition for only the second time in their history.

Leicester's Jamie Vardy, left, celebrates with Leicester's manager Brendan Rodgers at the end of the English FA Cup semifinal soccer match between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday, April 18, 2021. 0:29
Brendan Rodgers says he's delighted that the club have reached their first FA Cup final since 1969, and has his sights set on lifting the trophy.

There will only be 21,000 fans inside Wembley for Saturday's showpiece due to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions, but Brendan Rodgers will be hoping he can cement himself into club folklore by becoming the first manager to guide the club to success in the competition.

1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969.

After the most tumultuous of seasons behind closed doors, Leicester City fans will be hoping that 2021 is finally the year they get to see them add the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Pitch to Post Preview - FA Cup Final special: Will Chelsea or Leicester lift the trophy?

In a special episode of the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast we look ahead to this Saturday's FA Cup Final at Wembley, where Chelsea and Leicester will battle for the trophy in front of over 20,000 fans.

Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour and Sky Sports football writer Ron Walker to assess both sides on the back of their midweek results, the key areas which will decide the contest, and how the game will play out.

They also discuss what impact FA Cup glory would have on Brendan Rodgers' managerial career, the importance of Jonny Evans at the heart of the Leicester defence, and why former Foxes star N'Golo Kante could be the decisive player on the pitch this weekend for Chelsea.

Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox

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