The third round of the 2020-21 edition of the FA Cup went down at the weekend, and considering the current issues across England with COVID-19, it was largely a success. Most notably, youngsters Alfie Devine (Tottenham) and Louie Barry (Aston Villa) burst onto the scene with their first senior goals.
Over the years, many players have made a name for themselves in the FA Cup, with the competition giving a chance to youngsters and struggling signings alike.
Whether Barry and Devine make it to the top is anyone’s guess. But if they do, they’ll have followed in the footsteps of these five players, who all made a name for themselves in the FA Cup.
#1 Curtis Jones (Liverpool, FA Cup 2019-20)
When Liverpool were drawn against Merseyside rivals Everton in the third round of the 2019-20 FA Cup, eyebrows were immediately raised. This was one of the biggest matches to happen in the FA Cup’s third round in years.
However, when the game came around, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was clearly concerned about the pile-up of fixtures on his first-team stars. After all, they’d just come off a hectic Christmas period that saw them play six games in the space of two weeks.
And so for the FA Cup tie against Everton, Klopp named a side filled largely with academy products and fringe players. Despite this, the Reds came out on top, advancing to the FA Cup’s fourth round. And it was one of those academy products who sent them there.
18-year-old midfielder Curtis Jones – who’d only played a handful of first-team matches – scored the winning goal, and it wasn’t any ordinary goal, either.
Jones hit a stunning, curling shot from the edge of the box that gave Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford no chance. It was a goal worthy of winning any game – let alone a Merseyside derby in the FA Cup.
Since making his name in the FA Cup tie, Jones has gone from strength to strength. He is now one of Klopp’s first-team regulars in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield.
#2 Jack Grealish (Aston Villa, FA Cup 2014-15)
Jack Grealish is now widely recognized as one of the Premier League’s best players. However, this time six years ago, the mercurial Aston Villa playmaker was still largely an unknown, having just begun to break into Villa’s first team as an academy product.
Just 19 years old at the time, then-Villa boss Paul Lambert began to make use of Grealish in the 2014-15 edition of the FA Cup. And it was in Villa’s third-round victory over Blackpool that he made his first start for the club.
Grealish made appearances from the bench in Villa’s next three FA Cup games – with his quarter-final showing against West Bromwich Albion ending badly when he was red-carded for a dive.
However, when Villa’s FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool came around, Grealish was given a start by new boss Tim Sherwood, and the teenager’s impact was stunning.
Despite his side falling behind in the first half, Grealish’s dribbling skills caused chaos in Liverpool’s defense throughout the game. The playmaker was key to Villa winning the game 2-1, as he helped to create Christian Benteke’s equalizer and then assisted for Fabien Delph’s winner.
Suddenly, Grealish was the name on every Villa fan’s lips. And although it took him a few more seasons to really establish himself, it was his starring role in the FA Cup against Liverpool that made his name.