The Magic Of The Cup
May 11, 2012 in FA and Carling Cup
Cup Final day! Who on Earth doesn’t like Cup Final day? Even if your team exited the competition in the previous August, it’s still a day to enjoy. The tradition, the pomp and the circumstance.
Naturally, like all 43 year olds, I flew down the stairs and settled in for the day’s televisual feast. The coach leaving the hotel, the shot of it flying down the motorway taken by a passing airship and the team captain talking us through the starting eleven’s characteristics and foibles. Add to that the sight of the players inspecting the pitch (“Looks like it’s grass again, Lamps. That’s me a tenner down”) and some form of celebrity five-a-side and we’re all set for the showcase of the season. The F.A. Cup Final. Or The F.A. Cup Final sponsored by Budweiser, as it’s now known. Can’t wait for three o’clock.
Er, because that’s when the coverage starts.
Hold on, what happened to an 11am start of the coverage followed by frantic filling for the 3pm kick off? Well, the F.A, that wise body of men, decided to move the kick off to 5.15pm in order to…in order to…well, move it. Ah, that’ll be so the Liverpool fans can get down to Wembley on time, yes? Yes, that’ll be it. …Er, they won’t be coming back though. See, Virgin Trains cancelled their services and couldn’t possibly change their engineering schedule as it’s planned months in advance. Good job there are no successful teams in the North West who might make it to the final. Clearly the FA were hoping for a Hendon v Harrow pairing.
Well, okay, the kick off was obviously put back so the Far East could enjoy it. Those extra two and a quarter hours must have made their lives hell in previous years. In any case, there’s precedent to consider as the all London semis were played at 5.15pm too as was the Merseyside derby. Except it wasn’t. That was played at 12.15pm, necessitating a dawn start from the North West. Ah well. The FA know best, so let’s not ask too many questions.
ITV didn’t start their coverage till gone 3pm which rankled at first, but had I known how bad it would be, I’d have lobbied for the kick off to have been the opening shot. Enter Adrian Chiles, the Brummie Mrs Doubtfire, along with ‘funny’ Gordon Strachan, a stern Roy Keane and, for the Mums, Gareth Southgate. The usual knockabout started and cut to an interview with the recovering Fabrice Muamba, who, despite the horrors of the last months, was strong enough to endure a visit from Adrian Chiles. Queue some light acoustic music and a gut churning interview where Chiles was kind enough to remind about his Muamba about his narrow squeak with death. Cut back to the studio where the panel issued heartfelt but empty platitudes. Elsewhere the fans of both teams were screaming “WHAT’S THE TEAM NEWS?” to uncaring sets. The central message here being that ITV snuffled the exclusive Muamba interview. No sign of Gerrard and Terry playing Cup Final crazy golf just yet, just Chiles in chinos sitting in a big house.
On we went to an examination of the teams featuring a mild character assassination of Luis Suarez and a PR damage repair exercise on John Terry which had nothing to do with ITV’s exclusive exercise with a Mr John Terry. Don’t be cynical.
As the players warmed up Strachan talked us through the likely tactics. Chiles excitedly interrupted to point out his mate Fabrice in the stands.
Finally, we had the game. Possibly the most turgid opening half hour since the first 1982 final with Tyldesley and Townsend in the hot seat adding to the torpor with every word. Mercifully, the controversy arrived with Andy Carroll’s ‘was it in?’ goal and the panel leapt on the solitary crumb of a pretty average game. Video replays, the officials couldn’t possibly have made an informed decision etc. Let’s ask the man himself…
A fresh faced Gabriel Clarke legged it over to a pretty distraught Andy Carroll and gave it the entire Shreeves. “Did you think it was in?” “Yes, but youse would have more of an idea than me as I haven’t seen it.” “Did you think it’d crossed the line?” Andy blinked in concentration at this high level of questioning, possibly confused as to why he’d just asked the same question twice and repeated his answer. Operation Make Big Lummox Gibber on Live Television was cut short to fit in more adverts and crucial reminders for Britain’s Got Talent. The day was over. Liverpool fans began the long hitch hike home.
You can’t beat the magic of the Cup.