In 1965 Liverpool won their first FA Cup and kickstarted a wonderful spell of success in the competition. Under Bill Shankly, one of the greatest football sides of all time ended 73 years of waiting when they defeated Leeds United at Wembley. Since breaking that duck they have been back to the final many times but the men who brought the first cup back to Anfield will always have a huge part in the club's illustrious history.
By 1965 the Reds had six First Division titles but still no FA Cup to grace their trophy cabinet. After a disappointing seventh-placed finish that season a good Cup run was just the tonic. The road to the Wembley was certainly not without its thrills and spills. In the fourth round, the lowly Stockport County, propping up the entire Football League at the time, almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Cup history.
In an unprecedented move Shankly missed the game to go on a scouting mission to FC Cologne – Liverpool's next opponents in the European Cup. That decision looked like proving costly after the minnows took an 18th minute lead. Reds fans endured some nervous moments before Gordon Milne's equaliser. With Shankly back they did not make the same mistake twice, comfortably winning the replay 2-0.
After edging past Bolton and Leicester City in the next rounds, Liverpool faced their toughest test – Chelsea. The League Cup winners were in fine form after finishing the league in third and were expected to be a huge test for the Reds in the semi-final at Villa Park. And so it proved. There was nothing to separate the two sides until a moment of sheer quality from Peter Thompson turned the tie in Liverpool's favour. Cutting in at pace from the right wing, Thompson unleashed an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box. A penalty from Willie Stevenson guaranteed Liverpool their ticket to Wembley and another shot at the trophy they craved.
In a stirring speech before the final kicked off, Shankly told his players: "You’re going to win because you’re the best team." He was right. Leeds had only been denied the title by goal difference but were no match for Liverpool. They were a tough side but the Merseysiders were tougher – Gerry Byrne even played on having broken his collar bone.
Leeds stifled Liverpool over a goalless 90 minutes but in extra-time the stamina of Liverpool began to show. Within five minutes of the restart they were ahead through a Roger Hunt header but a great strike from Billy Bremner brought the scores level until with 111 minutes gone, Ian St John won the game. After great work down the wing from Ian Callaghan, St John rose to head in his cross and send the Liverpool fans wild.
The Liverpool 1965 FA Cup Winning Team:
1 Tommy Lawrence
2 Chris Lawler
3 Gerry Byrne
4 Geoff Strong
5 Ron Yeats (c)
6 Willie Stevenson
7 Ian Callaghan
8 Roger Hunt
9 Ian St. John
10 Tommy Smith
11 Peter Thompson
Manager: Bill Shankly