The FA Community Shield, or Charity Shield as it was known prior to 2002, in its current format pits the Premier League champions against the holders of the FA Cup and is the traditional curtain raiser for the coming Premier League campaign. Since its inception in 1908 it has always been a showpiece fixture for the FA but hasn’t always existed in today’s format.
The first ever Charity Shield pitted the Football League champions Manchester United against the Southern League champions Queens Park Rangers and was in fact professionals versus amateurs. Following this, the same format continued for a number of years with the sides often being one-off teams for the event and was played at the end of the season often at a neutral ground round the country or sometimes at the home ground of one of the sides. It wasn’t until 1959 that it was moved to the beginning of the season and not until 1974 that it was moved to Wembley to serve as the showpiece opener for the coming season. Notable early games featuring interesting participants came in 1950 and 1961 respectively. The 1950 Charity Shield featured the England World Cup team pitted against an FA team which had toured Canada that summer, with the 1961 curtain raiser the first time an issue seen often in present day arose. Tottenham Hotspur had just become the first team to win the League and Cup double which resulted in them facing a Football Association XI. This is now something that is settled in the current format with the League runners up participating.
Since the Premier Leagues inception both Manchester United and Arsenal have dominated the Community Shield, in fact the 2006 encounter where Liverpool defeated Chelsea 2 -1 was the first not to feature either of these sides since 1995. It is one of the matches involving Manchester United which has produced one of the most exciting. In the summer of 1996 Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle splashed out a British record transfer fee of £15million to bring local Geordie hero Alan Shearer to St James Park and this was the first opportunity the baying media were to see him in the famous black and white in a competitive game. United were the first team to do the “double double” having just won the Premier League and FA Cup together for the second time in three years prompting Keegan to have issued that famous outburst “I would love it if we beat them”. Newcastle had of course finished runners up in the Premiership and with the new addition of Shearer were ready to win their first League title since 1927. This was probably the most hyped Charity Shield ever. As was customary of the time, United silenced all the hype around their competitors with a stunning 4 – 0 win orchestrated by Eric Cantona (in his final season for United) and an ever improving David Beckham. Newcastle and Alan Shearer were speechless.
During the 1980’s and early 1990’s if the two teams were level by the end of the match they would share the shield for six months each, and it wasn’t until 1993 that the penalty shout out was reintroduced. Since this reintroduction penalties have become a frequent part of the Community Shield as the games are often cagey drab affairs as was the case last season with the match being contested by Manchester United and Portsmouth.
The fact that Manchester United and Arsenal were so dominant in the Community Shield during their heavy dominance in domestic football it would suggest that success in the Charity Shield would spell success in domestic football. This is however not always the case. More often than not the team that is successful in the curtain raiser does not have the expected success in the long run. The treble winning Manchester United team in 1999 were hammered 3 – 0 by Arsenal in 1998 and the untouchable Arsenal team of 2003/4 were beaten by a Manchester United side 4-3 on penalties in an extremely bad tempered affair. In fact in the period between 1985 and 2005 only United in 1996/7 and 2003/4 and Liverpool in 1989/90 went on to win the league in the same season as the Charity Shield. United have started to buck this trend in recent years having won both the Community Shield and Premier League titles in the same year for the last two seasons but it is clear that success early on in the season does not necessarily guarantee success come the final weeks of the season. Will this be something factoring in the players heads prior to Sunday’s match, we think not.