The FA Cup is the oldest and most prestigious domestic football trophy in the footballing world. What makes me love the FA Cup is the dramas it brings for teams big and small. Teams from your local regions start competing at the start of the season in the hopes of making it to the later rounds, which most dont end up getting to, but if they do then they will get the benefits of appearing on TV and getting a substantial financial reward for doing so, which can keep a club going for a few years due to the amount they recieve. Getting to the final is hard task to do with many shock results along the way and teams not expected to make the final doing so. Take 1997 for example, my team Middlesbrough got to the FA Cup final for the first time in their lifetime but were subject to a defeat, the season after also brought near glory for the team but they lost their also, we werent expected to get there, but it shows what hard work and determination can do.
The FA Cup has long been regarded as the ultimate club cup competition and I confirm that, after what I have witnessed today, it still is.
I am a massive Doncaster Rovers football fan and today, we have taken on the mighty Aston Villa and not only matched them, we have played them off the park. Shame it was only a 0-0 draw, but that is really the result I wanted, because only in the FA Cup would supporters of teams like ourselves ever get the chance to go to Villa Park to watch our team. That is what the FA Cup is all about.
It is a testament to the importance of the trophy with the team that Martin O'Neill played today against us. He could have rested players as they are sitting 4th in the Premier League and in a Champions League spot, but he didn't and that signifies the importance of such a trophy to people.
My first memory of the FA Cup was Manchester United beating Crystal Palace in a replay and the cup has had my attention since then.
We call them shocks every year, but are they really. Surely by now, with the FA Cup, we expect the odd freak result and therefore it no longer becomes a shock.
The current holders are Portsmouth and they have lost at home to Championship mid table outfit Swansea... only in the FA Cup.
The final day is one of the highlights of the calendar for most people and is the one day where even if your team is not in the final, you could easily watch every last second of the build up. It is that exciting.
It really is the greatest cup competition on earth and always will be.
Although 17 of the last twenty FA cup winners have been the current big four premiership clubs there's still a little bit of magic left in the old lady to keep footy fans enthralled. For example, this year's prestigious third round sees the lowest ranked club ever to participate at this stage with the mighty minnows of Chase Town welcoming the hooligans of Cardiff City to their tiny home ground. Chase did very well last year matching this season's feat and could easily nick this game. If they can and get a huge match away then TV money can change a lower league clubs destiny, Exeter City an example of when they held Man United to a 0-0 at old Trafford to earn a televised reply. These games may not mean much to the big clubs but my world they change lives down the ladder. But, alas a record low single figure number of clubs from below league one has made it to round three. Money really is telling in British football at all levels.
Spurs and Everton were two of the three clubs to break the top four cartel to win the Cup in the last twenty years, although as arguably the fifth and sixth best teams in the country over those two decades they really should be the next two. Wimbledon were, of course, the third winners in that very short list and the last great final day giant-killers, Liverpool managing to miss 18 clear chances and one penalty, Sanchez random back-header winning it 1-0. Recently then Championship teams Millwall and Southampton have somehow wriggled there way through to the final but in general one of more of the top four contest the big day, Spurs-Forest the last pairing not to do so back in 1990-91, coincidently the year the Premier league began and the money started to churn. In contrast, from the years of 1965 to 1979 there were 14 different winners in a row, the days when every pro and manger wanted to make that hallowed Wembley turf. One recent final had only three Englishman playing in it. In fact so devalued has it become to a certain section of clubs who feel they cant make the big finals and break the top half of the premiership they just put out second teams and publicly mock the cup, Kitson and Coppell to name but two. I seem to recall these two pulling this stunt last time and then going on to hold United at Old Trafford with that second team.
= = = The top four in the last twenty years = = =
Man United 5 wins
Liverpool 5 wins
Arsenal 5 wins
Chelsea 3 wins
= = = ALL-TIME WINNERS LIST = = =
Man United 11 wins
Aston Villa 7
The Wanderers FC 5 (obscure team that were disbanded in 1883)
= = = Predictions = = =
I can't see a winner outside of the top four if I am honest although there's good each way bets to be had on Everton (17-1), Man City (19-1), and Portsmouth (21-1). But when the big guns put their best sides out when they are required then one or even two will be in the final next May, which is all rather predicable these days in the game in general. The Carling Cup will be Arsenal or Chelsea this year, again going the way of the world's oldest football K/O trophy.
FA Cup third round draw: My Predictions!
Preston 1 Scunthorpe I
Preston, minus talisman Nugent, are rock bottom of the championship and it's not much better news for 22nd place Scunthorpe, set to go down with them. Will the cup be a distraction or will the mangers put out second teams to concentrate on the league, not the last cliché you will read in this review.
Chase Town 0 Cardiff 2
The smallest rated team ever to play in third round have a decent chance to hold mid table Championship side Cardiff, perhaps more concerned with their enticing three point gap from the play-offs and Premiership glory than this pub team. I suspect the Welsh will just nick it with that extra quality and all credit to Chase for not looking to move the game to Ninnian Park to end their dream.
***Colchester 1 Peterborough 2
Colchester were nearly top of the Championship this time last year but are now nearly bottom. Boro, on the other hand, were bottom of Div one but now in the top two of Division two, the form side of the two and level teams on paper. I really fancy an upset of sorts here.
Bolton 3 Sheffield United 1
Gary Megson is turning things around quickly at the Reebok and the Cup will prove a good breeding ground for the younger lads and more results. Anelka will be off to Chelsea as predicted by most fans before his four year contract gets to half-way and so rested to avoid him being cup-tied. In fact that sort of absence is a pointer to who's going to move in this window. They should easily over run the mid-table and Warnockless Championship Blades.
Blackburn 2 Coventry 1
Mark Hughes is one of just a small group of players to have four winners' medals and is showing the same potential in management, biding his time for the big club. With the Premiership sewn up as far as honors go it's down to domestic trophies to prove his abilities. They should over power the now struggling Sky Blues who have slipped from top of the Championships to 17th in two short months.
Brighton 2 Mansfield 0
They were finalists once but no glamour since, but here the chance to make the forth round with an easy win over the team sitting 91st in the league-a splat in the eye if you like.. With still no new stadium the Gulls are lingering in league one.
Walsall 2 Millwall 1
This all Division one clash sees promotion chasing Wallsall set to overpower the 2005 finalists Millwall, Dragons Den guru Theo Pathetis the engineer of that extraordinary feat and performance, long gone. Times have changed and home advantage will tell here.
Charlton 2 West Brom 2
Looks a cracking game as the Lactics uncertain home form meets championship leaders the Baggies. With Kevin Phillips in your side you always have a chance of an away win. I suspect both sides could do without such a tense game.
Watford 1 Crystal Palace 2
Warnock has arrived and Palace have blasted up the Championship, earning him the noisy and entertaining Yorkshireman, Manager of the Month award. The current form not only edges it Palaces way but Warnock's cup exploits are pretty good too. The Hornets have wobbled at home and are up for the taking here for me.
Luton 0 Liverpool 4 4PM SUNDAY LIVE ON SKY
Benitez may have given up the Premiership (some say in August) with two recent woeful draws but boy do they score goals. Footy fans will remember this amazing game a couple of years ago and Xavier Alonso scoring from his own half. A punter won 36k on just that bet and if he-Alonso-plays again I'm sure he will try to repeat it on SKY. Luton are just playing for their lives, the players unpaid and the club riddled with corruption. Liverpool callously refused to hand over their share of the gate and TV money to Luton to help their critical finances. Although most of that money may end up in the hands of bent agents and corrupt lawyers and board members, Luton clearly the fall-guys for the recent bung scandals.
Plymouth 3 Hull 1
Two teams just outside of the Championship play-offs will have
other things on their minds. Home advantage for me.
Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 1 BBC1 5-15PM LIVE
These two seem to meet every year and United (5-1f) seem to win every time. The last time United didn't win at Villa Park was in 1994, including cup semi-finals.Theres no real reason to rest payers here although this weekend is one where there are record number of last minute erroneous niggles and strains that befall the top stars, Ronaldo sure to be one of and Tevez confirmed as. The only hope for a good Villa side is if one or both of Rooney or Ronaldo won't be playing, United losing their only four games so far this season when both haven't played. This game will be notable as the new England manager will be there for his first live game of English football, the excellent young players Abonglahor and Luke Moore on the menu.
***Tranmere 1 Hereford 3
Competent Div one side Tranmere Rovers meet high flying League two side Hereford; It may be a one of those games you don't want to risk 'crooking' your best player in this type of game, wrecking that run Hereford have built up. But the border team may also go for it with their impressive away record and play on the break. I go for the away side here.
Tottenham 3 Reading 1
We all know about these two sides free scoring feats and likewise pathetic defenses. Spurs have scored an incredible 61 goals in all competitions so far this season with that majestic front line and I suspect Reading have conceded something similar, noticeable last week in that thrilling ten goal encounter between the same two. But I can't see this game going the same way, comments from Coppell and striker Kitson disrespectful to the cups tradition to say the least. The canny Coppell pulled a similar trick last year when he also announced that he would be resting players in the FA Cup, but earning a well planned out draw at old Trafford. You have to just edge it Spurs way (15-1) though with the improvements under Ramos. Rather quirkily, Reading have been 13th in the Premiership for 8 weeks. This WILL be a great game for fantasy footballers if they pick Keane and Berbatov-If the Bulgarian plays, cup-tied issues in the equation. I wouldn't want him in my team and I suspect neither will Sir Alex or Wenger, although he is the perfect Arsenal player.
Burnley 0 Arsenal 4 BBC1 LIVE 6PM SUNDAY
So Burnley, a mid-table Championship side, versus the majestic Arsenal at 5-1F; sophistication is not the word from the always entertaining Premiership leaders and premiership favorites. Alas it doesn't look as good for Burnley as it surely does for BBC 1 viewers for their final live match of the weekend. What a player Eduardo is. What a donkey Abedeyor is.lol.
Bristol City 1 Middlesbrough 2
The Robbins should be a big club and Gareth Southgate isn't ready to manage the one he's at is what we can take from this match and relative league positions, which may mean the first chance of an upset here. City are rising from two decades in the doldrums and sitting an impressive third in the Championship and Boro are in a decaying orbit. Could this be the game when the eighth premiership manager gets fired? Watch out for Tuncay to steel it for Boro and save the manager.
Fulham 2 Bristol Rovers 1
If it was the other Bristol club I would fancy Fulham going down here. But it isn't and Rovers are near the bottom of League One here-Fulham, if your take half-time scores, would be top of the current premiership. But Hodgesons side have let the lead slip nearly every game and so maybe vulnerable late on if it's tight. But I don't think so.
Huddersfield 1 Birmingham 1
Mid-table Huddersfield in Div One have a great stadium but an average team. Alex McLeish hasn't played in the FA Cup before and will have to be careful here if he rests guys like Jerome and Capol for Brum. Replay for me as the Blues are a better team now.
Swansea 3 Havant & Waterlooville 0
The Swans top league one and will brush aside the non-leaguers who sound like a couple of gay tailors.
Sunderland 1 Wigan 2
The FA Cup is the only thing left for Sunderland to impress in and both sides will be resting players in what would be a six pointer in the Prem. Steve Bruce has toughened up Wigans resolve and they wont go down easy here. Marcus bent is the form man for me and rejoins Emile Heskey up front. That factor could edge the game. Scharner is the man to watch.
Southend 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 0
The Essex derby will be a brutal affair for me. This time last year Southend were proudly in the Championship, but now on the slide in Div One. Dagenham have yet to get to grips with the league after coming up from the Blue Square and have more lessons to learn here.
Everton 3 Oldham 1
David Moyes has an easy home tie here against the mid-table Championship outfit and with Everton at 17-1 will surely see their price fall after it. Could Everton make the final with their scintillating midfield and the power of Yakubu?
Derby 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1
As usual the team that comes up in the Championship play-off usually goes straight down again with record low points in the Premiership, one win and just seven points so far. Paul Jewell has improved things slightly but has nothing to work with, other than the impressive Giles Barnes. Wednesday aren't doing great in the Championship so have nothing to lose. I think Derby have just enough though to avoid the upset.
Southampton 1 Leicester 1
Two ex premiership sides seem to be on the decline now and both fighting relegation in the Championship. Will the Cup be welcome? The players will be up for it but I suspect the best players on both sides will be held back.
West Ham 1 Manchester City 3
Man City are the first team to break the big four at New Year since Newcastle and Sir Bobby Robson. Only Leeds United have ever finished in the top four in May, other than the big four and Keegans Newcastle. Erickson is the new guru again and I suspect Curbishley will be taught a lesson in football management on Saturday, two guys both vying for the national coach job back in 2000. Its amazing what Sven has done at Eastland's and being the dignified and smart guy he has, yet to rub it in our noses over the way we all treated him over England. Their 19-1 price only reflects the third round draw. With guys like Elano and Petrov in the midfield they are nearer 10-1 for me.
Ipswich 2 Portsmouth 4
Ipswich have the best home record in the Championship and have scored three goals a game. But they haven't won away so need to get the job done against the team with the best premiership away record. Pompeys pace is devastating, as will the African Nations Cup be on their team here. Expect a full strength side by both teams and a great game.
Wolves 2 Cambridge 0
Wolves are another one of these big clubs festering in the Championship, unable to find the big money their old owner had to push for the Prem. Here they face one half of the now non-league Oxbridge. Cambridge United are the top end of the Conference but no match for the Wolves.
Barnsley 0 Blackpool 0
Two mid table Championship sides have draw written all over this game. This is the type of game that clubs lose money on and probably pick up season defining injuries.
Chelsea 4 QPR 0
This may be a home win today but five years from now it could be the top two of the Premiership. The world's fifth richest man has just joined the board at QPR in Lacti Mikhail and he has even more money than Abramovich. Maybe QPR will buy Schevchenko.
Stoke 1 Newcastle 2 LIVE ON BBC 1 2PM SUNDAY
This has been picked for obvious TV reasons and could signal the end of the crook Alladyce. With their star midfielder on bail and Owen wishing he was anywhere but Tyneside it could be one of those games the team may deliberately lose to sack the manager. I'm mates with a professional referee and he has told me stories about many clubs were the players did just that. Or it could be a Mark Robbins moment that Sir Alex had and the start of an era. I suspect not. This will be one Premier league manager who will be playing his strongest side. I fancy Viduka and Martins to run riot here.
Swindon 2 Barnet 1
Two cash starved mid-table clubs, one from Div One and one from Division Two, need a good cup run to sooth their January woes.
Norwich 2 Bury 1
Delia Smiths empire is rocking on the edge of Division one and need to use the cup to find some form and motivation. They should see off their struggling Div 2 opposition here as their home form is reasonable.
Ties to be played on 5/6 January
Leicester City have lost all of their four finals.
Kettering Town have scored the most goals in the cups history at 824 goals
The 5 winner's medals record is held by 3 different players. Two still playing today can match that record with one more win. Can you name them?
Doc Dowden scored 19 goals for Wimbledon in one FA cup run in 1923.
Chelsea were the last team to win at Wembley and the first team to win at Wembley.
In 2007 a record 731 teams entered, and rising every year for the last five seasons.
Spurs are the only non-league side to win the cup in 1901. Five of Spurs seven wins have been in the year ending in one.
If you are off to games to support he cup then have a great day. I have tickets for United-Villa in front of the box.
For me the FA Cup reached a new low this week, I'm not referring to the dire game last night between Chelsea and Newcastle which helped cure my insomnia but the fact thatfour quarter final games were played over four nights of the week meaning that two teams found themsleves playing only 48 hours after they were playing in the premiership.
There was a ray of hope for the competition though in the fact that both managers chose to field weakened sides on the Saturday showing that at least for them the competition was still very important. When those teams got beat they were attacked in some quarters for their actions however for me it is the FA who should be providing the answers for arranging fixtures in this manner solely for the purposes of TV.
I agree in principle with the reason for moving the games to mid-week to give the England team extra time to prepare for the World Cup but to spread them over four nights just to allow the TV people to show one game a night and thus get their four live games with no alternative on another station is a joke. For me all of the games should have been played over two nights in the middle of the week, their were only ever a couple of the games that needed to be on TV especially as all of the teams are in the Premiership and get plenty of exposure already, in fact so "attractive" is the Charlton / Middlesborough game that it has been relegated to BBC2.
In recent years the FA Cup has seen its reputation tarnished with top clubs often relegating it to their third priority behind the Premiership and Europe and it only rises in importance for them when they either exit Europe or Chelsea get a massive lead in the Premiership. It all started when Man Utd decided not to enter one year as they had to play in some Micky Mouse tournament in South America and since then top teams and even some in lower divisions have not fielded their best players in the early rounds.
I think that this is a real shame as I really enjoy this competition, it used to be one of the few full live games you would get to see before Sky came along.
Lets hope that this year we get a decent final and preferably without the usual suspects in it.
Its that time of year again! Its the F.A. Cup Third Round! The draw was made only days ago and we have one really magical tie. Yeovil Town play host to Liverpool at Huish Park in the first game of the new year. This is what the best cup competition in the world is about. Thats a big statement to make, but this site is about speaking your mind and I believe that the F.A. Cup is the number one competition worldwide. For instance, if Yeovil would have lost to Barnet in the Second Round they would find themselves coming to play my beloved team, Northampton, instead of playing in that dream tie. We were not so lucky, having drawn Rotherham in the Third Round, but just to be in the Third Round is a bonus for teams like ours. Its gives some much needed limelight to the lower leagues and indeed, non-leage. The excitment of the draw, that one upset you always get (it was us at Canvey Island a few years back), then the thought of who you could get in the next round! But how does the F.A. Cup feel to fans of Premiership teams? Is it just as magical as it is for fans of Third Division teams. Will fans be more excited at the Villa-United game because its the F.A. Cup or will it be a turn off because its not a Prem game? I for one remember the last time those two met in the cup in an explosive match, so obviously for the players the magic of the cup lives on. It would be nice to hear some opinions from this group of supporters on this subject. All the best for every team still in this magical competition...see you all at Cardiff!
Supporting a non-league team such as Woking has ups, and of course many downs. Some of my best memories are of games played in the 1990's in the FA Cup. We drew 3rd Division Barnet in consecutive seasons in the First Round, both away games. I was at this stage not going to away games but followed them on radio. Amazingly, we held a 3-0 half time lead in one game, only to go 4-3 down with minutes remaining, and snatch an equaliser to draw 4-4. On both occasions we won the replay by a single goal, on a cold night at Kingfield (our ground) with packed terraces and meaty challenges not to mention the pies. In the 1996-97 season our first round game against Milwall, who at the time were top of the Second Division, and the highest placed team in the competition at that stage. They surely arrived confident but had not prepared for our 39 year old striker Clive Walker to nutmeg the left back, swing a cross over and Steve Foster to head home a 3rd minute goal to stun the travelling masses. Even at 2-1 down into the second half, Woking still had fight, and against the odds, secured a replay when Walker smashed home a penalty to level the tie at 2 all. We won the replay 1-0, no need to tell you who the scorer was. We had a massive FA Cup scalp. Round Two saw us travelling to Cambridge United, a long long walk from the BR station and in the freezing cold. Once again, our boys were not daunted by higher ranked opposition, and held out till half time. As the fingers grew number, and the singing from the Cards fans grew louder, we broke upfield to score thanks to a fantastic solo run and curling shot from....Clive Walker, who if he wasn't already our hero would surely be by now. A Robin Taylor header secured our place in the big time...the Third Round of the FA Cup. As we listened to the draw on Sports Report that night, each of us prayed for a big tie against a Premiership side...and we got it - away to Coventry City. The stori
es behind my attempts to get to the ground, postponments, trains missed are many, but when the game finally kicked off, a month later than scheduled, we were champing at the bit to get stuck into to the Premiership side. 4,000 fans had travelled from Surrey - consider that our average home crowd was 2,500. After hanging on and hanging on, the inevitable breakthrough came Eoin Jess rifled in a shot midway into the second half. Again, who would give us a chance, but with 90 minutes up, and the whistles from the City fans portraying their nerves, one last ditch ball was lumped into the area, Steve Thompson headed goalwards, Steve Ogrizovic blocked, Thommo swung a boot, and the ball went into the net. Cue absloute bedlam among the Woking fans and a mass exodus of the home fans as we sang "You're not singing any more!" We had come out of a game with a Premiership side, unbeaten. Never mind we lost the replay, we had been on Sky, BBC1 and 5 Live and we were somebody. The joys of football, eh? Can't be beaten.
The F.A. Cup has a long and proud history, although in recent times some of the bigger clubs have been known to give it slightly less preference in view of other schedules and tournaments, these being the regular Premier League and the Champions League. However to me personally the F.A. Cup means a great deal and I still consider it, alongwith many others, to be the finest cup competition in the world. The F.A. Challenge cup, is presently sponsored by AXA and is the oldest and most famous football competition in the world. At it's onset in 1871 the number of teams that participated was a mere 15. In the inter-war years the number of clubs that took part was a massive 600. Today there exists a standard of ability and ground facilities that must be achieved before the respective club is given permission to enter the F.A. Challenge cup. In the year 2001/02 the number of successful clubs entered were 596, which proves that these standards are slightly lax in order to allow the maximum number of clubs to participate and ensure the beginning of a possible "fairy tale" for the smaller clubs. The competition is made up of the following rounds: --Extra Preliminary Round, which starts in August --Prelimineray Round --Four Qualifying Rounds --Six Rounds in the Competition Proper --Semi Final --Final At present teams from the Football Conference are exempted to the Fourth Qualifying Rounds. The Second & Third Division teams are exempted to the First Round Proper and the First Division and F.A. Premier League Clubs come in at the Third Round Proper stage. The rules are pretty simple and what make the F.A. cup so exciting. When the draws are made for all the rounds, expect the Semi Finals, the team that comes out first plays it's match at home. All matches are played for the 90 minutes and if they are drawn after then, then the matches must be replayed at the other teams ground.
The Semi Finals are usually played at neutral venues and must be completed on the day. If the scores are equal after 90 minutes of play then the game will go into 30 minutes of extra time, having two halfs of 15 minutes. If the scores are still equal after extra time the match will go into a Penalty Shootout. The Final is a majestic event and is held at the major ground in the country. From 1923 to 2000 it was staged at Wembley but due to the redevelopment of this ground it is now being staged at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. What is unique about the F.A. Challenge Cup is that it provides the opportunity for all the clubs to participate and produces matches that can only be seen in the F.A. Cup. Thoughts of the giant-killing heroics of Wrexham, Yeovil and Hereford spring to mind. Watching teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool playing at grounds that have a usual attendance of 500 spectators also springs to mind. Nowhere in the world will you ever see this happen. Spare a minute to think what those part time players are thinking when they play teams with players earning more per week than they do per year. This is what dreams are made of for these smaller clubs and for their players. This years F.A. Cup final, at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, was between two of London's most successful clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea. The match was settled 2-0 in favour of Arsenal thanks to two superbly finished goals by Ray Parlour and Freddie Lunjgberg. By winning the this years F.A. Cup, Arsenal have secured themselves their third domestic double in their history. Manchester United have won the F.A. Cup the most number of times at 10. Arsenal have now won the trophy a total of 8 times making making them, alongwith Tottenham Hotspurs, as the team to have won it the second most number of times. The F.A Challenge Cup will always have a place in the hearts of millions of people throughout the world and
this is evidenced by the hype and drama that always enfolds prior to any F.A. Cup final. I think that the Football Association should provide an added incentitive, to making sure it stays that way, by giving the F.A. Cup winners the fourth Champions League qualification berth, instead of a UEFA Cup place. Already the much maligned League Cup, which Blackburn Rovers won this year, awards the winners with a place in the UEFA Cup. How can you make comparisons with the League Cup and the F.A. Challenge Cup, with both competitions awarding the same prize at the end. More should be done to continue to keep this tournament as the finest cup competion in the world.
All too often showpiece occasions in sport, and particularly the succeed-at-all-costs, high paying winner-takes-all game of football. And so it was, almost inevitably yesterday in the glorious sunshine of Cardiff as the might of Arsenal took on a fearsome Chelsea side in the Millennium Stadium for the right to lift the oldest piece of silverware in the first class game. Every year we get the same heady predictions that "these two will really give us a match to savour" and every year we get the same predictable damp squib of a match, with defensive formations on top and any life squeezed out of the game by the need to avoid defeat. Just as the promise of World Cup glory will lead to too much sterile, passive crablike scuttling across the pitch like it did in the first half of the recent friendly between Italy and England (before the gifted Joe Cole got involved in a goal at each end, wrongfooting both sets of defenders), so the most romantic of football trophies provoked the same passionless sparring of great men turned artisans, as few turned in the sort of performances we have come to expect these last twelve months or so. The records will show that Romford born Ray Parlour (one of only six English players on the field at the start) and the pink haired star of the last six weeks, the Swede Freddie Ljungberg, scored the goals from the edge of the area that gave the Gunners the first of a probable Double triumph (which would make a record three), and historians from North London will look back on this game as a glorious triumph, but for most of us it will be quickly consigned to the dumper, as yet another FA Cup final contest simply failed to deliver the goods. The talk before the match was all of the Gallic excellence of the Frenchmen and Dutchmen on show, Henry, Bergkamp, Wiltord, Vieira, Hasselbaink, Petit, Desailly, Gallas and Melchiot, but in truth of that lot only Patrick Vieira emerged with reputation totally intact, pla
ying a low key game by his standards, but still thoroughly justifying the award of man of the match with an imperious holding performance in the heart of midfield. His national captain, Marcel Desailly also looked strong for lengthy periods, uncharacteristically surging out of the back four like a man possessed, in the manner of his old midfield role, striving to ensure his Blues would not end the season without silverware. Most experienced pundits had rated the pairing of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen up front for Chelsea as being more threatening and productive than Arsenal's more sedate spearhead, especially in the lengthy absence of Robert Pires, who has brought the invention to the Gunners' drive for the Premiership, but a torn calf muscle had sapped much of the threat from Hasselbaink and rendered him little more than a gifted cripple, prompting his Icelandic partner with the odd touch and turn, although Gudjohnsen was as pedestrian here as he has ever been in a golden season for the Stamford Bridge club. Hasselbaink's inclusion was a gamble, and the only one that Chelsea were willing to make with John Terry's overnight illness leaving him on the subs' bench with William Gallas instead partnering Desailly at the back. The rest of the team was entirely predictable. Arsene Wenger brought back the splendid Sol Campbell to partner the old warhorse Tony Adams, leaving Martin Keown on the bench, and went with a central midfield pairing of Parlour and Vieira, flanked by Wiltord and Ljungberg. That midfield combination was what decided the outcome of the match. For all of Arsenal's lukewarm lack of fire in the first half and Chelsea's dominance, the only real chance in the first 45 minutes fell to an unmarked Bergkamp in the area, who met Ashley Cole's inviting centre with a headed flick that drifted wide of Cudicini's post when he should have done better. Chelsea contin
ued to catch the eye, although they rarely carved out a decent chance, and in the end it was the dominant Vieira and Parlour, with their swamping of Lampard and Petit, who gave Arsenal the possession and platform for the win, which was highlighted by two wonderful goals. However, for all the dullness of the occasion, we should remember this game as the one in which Wenger's new marauders stamped their dominance on the English game, posting indelibly a mark of their current superiority over their bitter rivals from Old Trafford. A point away to United in the week would secure a second Double in four years, a remarkable achievement for the wily Frenchmen in the time since he unexpectedly arrived at Highbury as an unknown from Japan in September 1996. His dignity and assured confidence in the face of the normal mind games of Sir Alex Ferguson has been remarkable, but thoroughly justified by the way his charges have conducted themselves this season, scoring in every Premiership game, remaining unbeaten away from home all year and embarking on a splendidly consistent run of victories when the pressure has really come on. Make no mistake - this is a wonderful football team who thoroughly deserve all the plaudits, and they can be forgiven for an occasional off day at the office, although they will need to be sharper to emerge unscathed from what is bound to be a heated atmosphere during the week, with Manchester United desperate to inflict defeat on their rivals, even though it is unlikely that even a defeat can prevent the completion of a second remarkable Double.
The magic of the cup has gone. Dads, even twenty something?s know it as yet again the big expectant clubs make the final. In the last ten years the top five clubs plus Middlesboro have battled it out driving away the romantics and the once massive audiences. In those halcyon good old days the attraction with the cup was the small club always had a chance, even if tiny of making the final, with the old first division clubs having more that an average chance of making the magical Wembly final. It was also one of very few live transmissions seen on TV and that alone was enough to build the attention and excitement of the neutral. Can you see Rushden and Diamonds or Cheltneham doing what Wimbledon did to Liverpool in those embarrassing white suits in ten years time. Now those top six clubs have sixty percent of the over saturated live match coverage and revenue allowing them to dominate the screens and finals. And with the countries top club in Manchester United turning its back on the big one slowly it wont belong until the rest of the big players do, devaluing it to the level the domestic knock out company is on the continent. How long will it be until Arsenal put out weakened sides along with Liverpool in pursuit of Euro success over domestic. The irony of that of course is that the old division one teams and the lesser premiership ones will yet again be able to make the final in May. I watched a couple of shows in the week for the BBC build up about those famous players and goal scorers of yesteryear. Most of them are now running pubs, newsagents and chip shops by all accounts. Can you imagine Cantona, Lundberg and Owen retiring into public service of some sort .Of course not because money is the driving force and not good old passion. Todays match in Cardiff had a great atmosphere but its just too tricky to get to, harder than Wembley by all accounts!. Arsenal and their fans had to meet a London club in t
he Midlands for the semi-final at a time when most trains are going to bed on Sunday, and now off to Cardiff for another London Derby. Why cant we play the final on the road like England games to help the fans out and not the vulgar Welsh FA. They havent taken any action over the riots in this competition against Leeds United, or this weeks in the play-off. Yet they get a ton of money from this match. The trains and car journeys are just horrendous there and you know its going to be the next day when you get home from a night match. As for today?s match, well Ranieri got an unprecedented five-year deal at Chelsea under Hiel Bates for Todays performance. Great managers don?t play injured strikers, regardless of them being the wonderful two-footed enigma that is Hasslebaink. The guy was struggling before the first kick of the warm up and little Zola should have started. That decision was made by Bates over the coaching staff if you ask little old me. Graham Lesaux made even less an impression in front of the England coach for yet again picking up a stupidly early booking, the very reason why Kind Swede has over looked him. Chelsea became the tenth team in a row from scratch to lose after drawing dressing room B. That statistically is getting dangerously weird and is slightly ahead of the odds of Tunisia winning the World Cup next month. The first half was a typical bore draw that we see in so many of the May cup finals. Although Chelsea did battle and allow one or two of their foreign stars the chance to shine. Desilley was particularly good, better late than never!. But if Terry had some more bottle after crying of the first half and Gudjohnsson had someone to put him in on goal more it could have been far better first 45. Arsenal pressed the pedigree pedal to the metal and scored two superb goals from a cockney in Parlor and the irrepressible Swede in Lundberg.The later has stepped in to Pires twinkle toes beautifully
and clipped a beautiful chip,Ray Wilkins style, to seal the win. Although his hair is screaming im gay, even if he isn?t to the fans that all know. It was o nice to see an English guy, and an out and out Londoner to get the opener with his fearsome run and top corner lash. Step one of the inevitable equally unprecedented double is now almost certain, unless the team that are now surrendering the number one spot can take it to a nervous last day. Arsenals win means Leeds United are guaranteed EUFA cup footy if they finish sixth.
What a disappointment it was not see any Premier League players get embarrassed on Britain’s brainiest footballer last week. All the entrants that took on Carol Vorderman were all lower league players with equal lower league reputations and egos. I wouldn’t mind coming up against her though anytime!. Manchester Uniteds repeated disrespect of the FA Cup is slowly bringing it down to the Worthington Cup level. Twelve years ago Lee Martin scored that replay goal that set the afterburners running them into the football stratosphere. Now the long forgotten defender has been arrested for Dole fraud and Manchester United have all but turned their nose up to the worlds best cup competition. Another legendary FA Cup goal scorer in Ryan Giggs has his brother in jail after a GBH with affray. And that’s exactly what The Reds powers that be are doing to the domestic Cup here. All those with second stage European concerns are out of it already bar Arsenal and we are now left with middle ranking premiership teams set for the final in Cardiff. It devalues the competition to see Lauren Blanc deliberately ducking an obvious clearance and the more cynical would say certain teams were more interested in the champion’s league. These are my predictions for round five . If any of you want to have a go at predicting results then paste em up and lets compete. ROUND FIVE. NEWCASTLE UNITED 4 MANCHESTER CITY 3……….City were relentless at Ipswich on TV and were still pouring forward on the whistle. These guys and their manager don’t believe in defending with an incredible 84 goals scored this season. But Bobby will be cherishing the return of the King to St James Park and should out wit the tacticless Keegan.Defensivly and with home advantage Newcastle should have enough to repel the onslaught. What a match its going to be though!.Hard to believe Goater has scored 24 goals.
MIDDLESBOROGH 1 BLACKBURN ROVERS 1……..The North East club need this cup run to keep some sort of momentum in the season. If they lose this then they might just lose the will to day up in the big league. Their undeserved win over United should give them a lift and maybe Campbell and Whelan can some how over turn this tough North West challenge. Souness is already got these guys to one domestic final and could easily double up like many teams have before recently. Jansen and Cole are real raiders away from home with that little Dunn and Tugay putting the ball on their toes. EVERTON 3 CREWE ALEXANDER 0…….Gazza is on fire and could power these losers with the luck of the draw to the final.It doesn’t look like he will be turning to a professional gold career this summer with he little chubby genius sure to catch the World Cup fever. Stranger things have happened and im sure Sven could get more out of him that most. But they should over run Darios side with Campbell back fit and their neat defense. WALLSALL 1 FULHAM ATHLETIC 2…….The Londoners are looking very useful in the premiership and this cup with a great win on a tricky muddy lower league pitch earlier.Saha and the French players that litter this side are so fast on the break that it will be really difficult for Wallsall to propel them. WEST BROMICH ALBION 3 CHELTENHMAM 0……..Can’t see this out of place division three side having a chance against the all conquering Brom. They have already whacked Liecester and Sunderland with a great chance here to go all the way to at least the semis. The Midlanders are very organized and not at all afraid of reputations as they have their eyes on the top league to. TOTTENHAM 3 TRANMERE ROVERS 0……With Spurs busting their Chelsea twenty seven game hoodoo to go to the Worthington Cup final in spectacular style,these division Two side should be a breez
e. Hoddles doddle is emphasized that his boys and girls (Sherwood) have only conceded twelve goals at the lane all season and almost impregnable here in the knockouts. A cup double here and Europe could crown a spectacular first season for the prodigal son Glen. ARSENAL5 GILLINGHAM 1……The Gaelic posers will have no trouble here holding on to their favorites tag here against lower Nationwide One side.You can get ten to one for The Gunners to win the double at Ladbrokes and I reckon that’s worth a nibble. Henry, Pires, Lundberg, Bergkamp……….the list goes as they will to the final. CHELSEA 3 PRESTON N E 1……After their dumping of West Ham last night in that thrilling game at Upton Park !.Chelsea are really beginning to shake up this season. . But why did David James have a sheep on his head Once a club wins away regularly then they are going to be serious challengers in any competition. The Blues are 50-! For the double if you are a supreme optimist. This one won’t have you sweating over the coupon the betting slip though. Hasslebaink and Zola will strip these like a white man in Lewisham.
This season has finally shown the FA that changes need to be made to the organisation of the FA cup if it is to last as the prestige compettion it currently is thoughout the world. This was no more evidently shown than at the riverside stadium when the arrival of Manchester United brough about only a sparse crowd and saw Manchester United play a three qurter strength team surely concentraing on the league match following in a few days. Teams who field under-strength teams are undermining the competiton and making it blantently ovious that the Premiership comes way ahead of the cup. Measures such need to be taken. The first step i suggest is an automatic fining of a club who send out weakened teams. The second step is that replays revert back to the old system and are played on the week days following the original game instaed of a week or two later. Delaying the reply only helps to lessen the atmosphere of a game and events from the first game are forgotten to easily. The final step i am not to sure about but i thought i may suggest it. As clubs are more interested in Champions league i believe that the winners of the cup should be rewarded with a play off against the 4th placed team in the league for the final champions league spot.The loser of this play off would get a uefa spot and the winner a champions league spot. So come on FA keep the cup alive!
With Leeds and the Cardiff police force out of sight in the competition its time for the big guys to stretch their premiership muscles. Arsenal and Liverpool go head to head to lose another favorite leaving Man United a clear run. Alex will be up against his protege Mclaren at Middlesborgh or a nasty trip to Wimbledon. FORTH ROUND DRAW. PRESTON 2 SHEFFIELD UNITED 0…. This all division one clash should see the stronger home side coming through. ROTHERHAM 2 CREWE 1…….Ronnie Moore has a gutsy side who have managed to just hold their own in division one after two successive promotions. Their brilliant win over Southampton who has won five out of there last six under Strachan was a hell of a result. Home advantage should be enough against Dario Gradys fellow strugglers to put them in round five for the first time in a long time. CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2 BRADFORD CITY 0……..Should be a straight home advantage here with the Premiership tipping it on class. Curbishley has a settled side and the Yorkshire team are under performing this time out. TRANMERE ROVERS 3 CARDIFF CITY 0……This is the score im hoping for after the despicable Welsh nationalist crap at Ninian Park. GILLINGHAM 2 BRISTOL ROVERS 1……After their giant killer act it stands to reason they get turned over by a very average Nationwide One. YORK CITY 1 FULHAM ATHLETIC 1……..Well York knocked out higher league neighbors Grimsby in round three and Fulham wont fancy it on the Boothberry Park mud pack. The battle of survival that the Yorkshire club is going through at the moment may get a chunk of cash from a two-match replay here. I really fancy that back against the wall attitude to really test Fulham and maybe earn a mud-splattered draw or more. DARLINGTON2 PETERBORGH2 V NEWCASTLE UNITED…….Who ever comes through the lower league crunch they are sure to suff
er under Bobby Robsons table topping Newcastle.The old boy has yet again done wonders with his chosen club and really deserves a domestic final. Dyer, Elliot and Solano will prosper on any service and look comfortable to get through this bobbly pitch encounter, home or away!. TOTTENHAM 2 BOLTON WANDERERS 1……….Glen has himself a nice cup side here as he gets into shape what he has in the easier format.Europe may be beyond him in The Premiership but this or The Worthington should see them on the way back to the glory days of the eighties. Home advantage should be enough here although Bolton are tough and no push overs so it will be close with a reply very possible. CHELSEA 3 WEST HAM UNITED 1………..The Blues played gorgeous in the last round against Norwich and I suspect will be playing a Dicannioless Hammers, the heart of this family club now. It’s certainly going to be a display of beautiful passing and football with goals a plenty. But Chelsea are playing the better as West Ham are just coming of a decent run. Then again the West Londoners are just so unpredictable and we know the boys from the East have engineered some great wins away, but will Paulo be there?. MILLWALL 2 BLACKBURN ROVERS 2….The East Londoners have done brilliantly under their young chairman and passing football. Second in the league means a cup run here could sabotage automatic promotion to The Premiership that is there to be taken. But they are hot at home and Blackburn Roves may have to take it to a replay to go through. CHELTENHAM 0 BURNLEY 0…….The lower league side come up against a superb table topping Burnley who know one saw coming.But playing away can be tricky so im going with a draw. EVERTON 1 ORIENT O…….The premiership club are awful and surprisingly bumbled through to this round.But Orient had their moment and will just be over awed by the hist
ory and size of Goodison. W.B.A 2 LEICESTER CITY 1…….Lets face it is been bad all year at Filbert Street and you cant see them prospering away at a very tricky trip to a top Division One side.Midlands derby to so the crowd will be pumped after knocking out Sunderlad. MIDDLESBORGH O MANCHESTER UNITED 1………..The mentor entertains the guvnor in this all premiership clash. On paper it look United nailed on and after the dramatic Villa Park turnaround you cant see United not having enough firepower. United reject Jonathon Greening won’t be making any difference that’s for sure. Maranelli sums up the Weirside club, lots of potential but no real direction. United march on to Alex’s last big domestic final. IPSWICH TOWN 1 MAMCHESTER CITY 1………..Has Ipswichs run of form peaked or will they survive this severe test from the next league down best team. But City can be rampant away and may just nick this here or on the replay. ARSENAL 1 LIVERPPOL 1……This is tighter than a walnut in Anna Kournalovas ass and in the old days would have had ten replays.Its obviously going to be BBC’s live game on Sunday and will be an absolute treat in the first of many encounters between these two this season.
The F.A cup is as exciting now as it has ever been. Because of the gulf between the premiership and the other leagues in England, the smaller clubs get just as much if not more pleasure when one of these giants turns up. I support Portsmouth, an ever present struggler in division 1. They never really get anywhere, but the cup gives the potential and hope as brief as it usually is, to see some of the greatest players in the world on my own doorstep. I am sure Macclesfield were over the moon when Di canio and cole turned up earlier this season. The cup also can give welcome monetary subsodies and incentives as i am sure York city and similar teams will be happy to testify. In what other competition would you find non and lower league teams getting the opportunity to give a top team a good old run for their money? When we get the excitement of a cup run like Wycombe and Chesterfield did recently, is there anything to compare for teams such as these. Is there anything more entertaining in football though than a good cup run? It certainly makes a change to the drudgery of lower division 1 football let me assure you. It is a stage where dreams come true, where the mighty have fallen and the minnows have grown. never in the forseeable should or will this competitions romance die out. Long live the F.A Cup (please let Portsmouth have some respect next year though, no offence but leyton orient!)
The ground is very much zero and the balls orange which can mean only one thing. Its FA Cup 3rd round day when the little guys have their moment. The BBC has gone all out this year for the world’s most knockout cup with coverage of the first and second round with live matches to boot. Canvey v Northampton was fascinating as we saw the really little guy on one of those grounds like a small Kosovan town trying to see who could get closes to the moon with the goal kicks. This round is where the big boys come in and generally get to the final.more so in recent years as its get priority over the Worthington Cup and mid table league matches. Manchester United have the only all premiership match with a tough trip to Villa and should be favorites to win in May with Leeds United and Arsenal also staking claim. The minnows of the minnows in Canvey Island, well they have to go to division one pacesetter Burnley to prolong their dreams away from the factory floor and the building site. But they may not be many back page heroes tomorrow as Jack Frost spreads that mystical gray diamond sparkling morning. This is how I see them going….. ASTON VILLA 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 2…. Gregory’s boys are on the dip again in their typically wavy season and look ripe for a hiding by the super inform reds. Its six on the spin for United and Beckham has been clearly held back to have a crack at this and the all important champions league next phase. I think even Ferguson had given up on The Premiership when Chelsea skinned then three nil at home.So getting Beck’s champing at the bit during contract talks and Christmas shopping will help decide where his loyalties lay. I cant see him wanting to play for anyone but Alex and I expect him to be sold if he has a great World Cup and good runs starting toady. What away to go out with a domestic final and a Hampden showdown for his mentor. BARNSLEY 0 BLACKBURN ROVERS 2…
;…..New man Cole and Jansen should be able to penetrate these mid table lower league one non-entities. BRIGHTON 1 PRESTON 2………If Bobby Zamora is worthy of Premiership football now is the time to prove it.Bobby is Brighton and if he goes well they do.Preston are a good side in Nationwide and may just have enough on the day. BURNLEY 3 CANVEY ISLAND…….The dream is over as the car breakers get a going over by a top Division One side. CARDIFF CITY 0 LEEDS UNITED 3…..The improving Welsh side would have had a better chance if Hanaman had managed to swing this tie at The Millenium stadium. But Leeds are going to fly away with this and probably the championship with the brilliant Fowler now up front. CHARLTON ATHLETIC 5 BLACKPOOL 0………The Prem side ain’t going to lose at home to a mid table division three side. Graham Stuart is the one to watch here as a hat full could fly from their exquisite passing game. CHELTENHAM 1 OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1……….Hard pich,hard game,hard earned draw.Oldham have had a patch but have come from behind recently to start moving up the table again.Replay win for the Boundary Park boys. COVENTRY CITY 2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2…Hard to call this one as Spurs don’t quite cut it away. Its going to be a battle royal with the Londoners perhaps just getting through with a touch of luck, or Andertons magic boots. CREWE ALEXANDER 1 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1………Two poor mid to lower league one sides all set for a slug feast. Dario Grady just notched up match 10000 as the boss at Gresty Road so what better reward than an unlikely cup run. Be honest can you remember them doing well in the FA CUP!. DAGENHAM AND REDGRAVE 0 IPSWICH TOWN 3……The non leaguers may have had a chance three weeks ago as they were topping the Conference and Ipswich were rock bottom in the Premiership.But the
Tractor Boys are on their toes now trying to escape the pull of relegation gravity. Bent is in form and Rueser owes them. Clapham also looks ready to contribute. DARLINGTON 2 PETERBOROUGH 1…..Tenichally its an upset but not significant in football history. The Posh are up for sale and the wages will be a struggle like trying to watch this long ball far. DERBY COUNTY 3 BRISTOL ROVERS 1,,,,Derby have found a smidgen of form recently even though Ravenelli keeps missing those valuable pens.But a nice comfortable win over these third division strugglers should be the boost they need for their fight. GRIMSBY 2 YORK CITY 1……..Another lower league scuffle from teams in different league relegation annual toils.Home advantage is nearly always enough in that scenario. HULL CITY 0 CARLISLE 0…..Britain’s third richest town’s team is out of form and will have to grit it out in this one a replay. They haven’t scored for four weeks and this just could be a pivotal moment in their campaigns. Penalties after a replay, painful stuff. LEICESTER CITY 2 MANSFIELD 1….…. The Foxes could be vulnerable to another Roy Essendon shock again after Wycombes win last time in the quarters. Bassett needs a cup run here to pump his league performances up. But Leicester have no firepower so could struggle if they go behind. LIVERPOOL 2 BIRMINGHAM 1…….The Worthington Cup replay that so nearly saw the scousers over turned could serve up another classic.The Blues are turning in some good performances and look likely to secure the annual play off spot. Selling the championship to Leeds with the Fowler transfer has left them with the useless Heskey and crook Litmumen up front. Anelka is equally temperamental and I can see Liverpool again struggling. MACCLESFIELD 1 WEST HAM UNITED 3…..An early shock goal will fire up the Londoners brilliant midfield wherever Dicanni
o may be. Kanoute and Defoe are the boys now and West Ham could go all the way this year if they peak. MANCHESTER CITY 5 SWINDON…The rest of division one can wave good bye to City like Swindon should tommorow. Keegan has blocked up the back and they are flying, and the brilliant Algerian is at the center of the run. Kevs boys could do very well this year. MILLWALL 3 SCUNTHORPE 1………The East Londoners have been consistently good through out the year with no real form drop off.That generally points to a good cup run in a team and Scunthorpe wont be halting it. NEWCATLE 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 2…..There could be a surprise here as The Magpies recent table topping form has been abruptly halted by real contenders. Altitude sickness has set in and Palace who are on the up after Bruce departure could nick a draw. Its time for it to be Sir Bobby though and lest hope he can get a cup run together before he has that inevitable heart attack. NORWICH CITY 2 CHELSEA………Again another team in form against a team dipping out of tempo.Chelsea always get patchy in the league when it matters and this current blip could expose them in the cold weather. Their foreign legend don’t want to get stuck in when the gloves come out and a good brave division one side like Norwich can get at them. Chelsea should take it back to the Bridge. PORTSMOUTH 2 LEYTON ORIENT 1…….Mid table Prosintchky lead team in division one should have no fears with a mid table league four one. ROTHERHAM UNITED 0 SOUTHAMPTON 3…..The Saints best two players are on form in Beattie and Pahars, which means a moral boosting, win here. The Millers are out of their depth in Nationwide One and have been bobbing around at the bottom like Titanic survivors soon to be doomed. SHEFFIELD UNITED 1 NOTTS FOREST…. Mid to lower league Division one slugfest like two washed up boxers who have s
een better times. SOUTHEND 1 TRANMERE 1…Similar scenario as above with the emphasis on been lighter weight. Replay, replay, replay. STOCKPORT 1 BOLTON WANDERERS 1…Two great battling sides with relegation struggles ahead until the Spring blossom is with us again. But Bolton are extremely vulnerable away from home against a side who have hung on to almost top-flight football way above their station. But they should have enough to get it back down the M6. STOKE CITY 2 EVERTON 1……….Walter Smith has got the dreaded vote of confidence this morning which can only mean one thing.If you lose this extremely tricky tie then adios amigo. Everton haven’t one or scored since November and I cant see a way out of this one Stoke have been up the top of Division Two as usual and will test them to the limit. I think they can win this and make Smith casualty number thirty in the managerial league. *************MY SHOCK OF THE DAY******************* SUNDERLAND 1 WEST BROM 0…. A real slogger for Peter Rieds nearly good side. The Midlanders may just be playing them at the right time after that five nil surprise whipping by Ipswich.But they have corrected that err since and should just squeeze a win here. Arca is the one to watch. WALLSALL 1 BRADFORD CITY 1…….Another Nationwide battle in the frost with home advantage the only bonus here.Poor Wallsall will have to be dragged back to the ice cold wind that blows through the valley parade ground with vengeance. WATFORD CITY 1 ARSENAL 3……Parochial semi finalist Arsenal will have little worries from Viallis strange hiding place up the M1.Man for man its slaughter and just the start the Gunners needed .They will one of the big three trophies this year,but which one?. WIMBLEDON 2 MIDDLESBORGH 0…….My second big shock of the round will be the muscular Wombles knocking over a fragile travellin
g Borough who really aren’t anything when its too cold for the talented Boxich. The barrage will be just too much and maybe too much for the Tynesiders who could also suffer an indignant relegation that most think they deserve for mismanagement and poor signings. ****************** SECOND BIG SHOCK******************************** Well theres the way I seed it and I hope I didn’t bore you too much or skint you on Ladbrokes weekend quick slip. Im going for Man United v Leeds final with good runs for Chelsea and Fulham.Man City and Millwall from Division One and Stoke and Oldham from the rest.
Its that time of year again, Beckham has been named sports personality of the year, its getting colder, Torquay are in relegation trouble, and it is nearly time for the FA Cup 3rd round draw where the minnows face the big boys in one of the most famous competitions in the sports world. If anyone was watching the Exeter City vs Dagenham and Redbridge on Sky Sports 1 on Saturday evening, then you would have been lucky enough to see me make my television debut. As a mate of mine kindly put it me and my mates were the ‘tw*ts in the hats’ in the Exeter end, it was a real party atmosphere and a great day. The game was not up to much, but it was a superb crowd, I don’t think the TV did it justice. Anyway apparently me and my mates are now famous, and the whole point of this opinion is the magic of one of the greatest and most famous competitions ever, and one that has thrown up some great cup shocks and memorable games Unfortunately the so called ‘magic’ of the cup is something much simpler. Money. Ok, so there may well be something in the games, and that I cannot doubt that there have been some very memorable games with plenty of surprises. It may be my cynical side, but there may well be a lot more to the cup than simply magic. Take Exeter’s game for instance. As a business they are in a very messy state, they don’t own the land the ground is build on, there have been a number of rumored takeovers, and there are huge debts probable between £1-£2 million. The first game against Dagenham was live on Sky, so both clubs were paid £100,000 for the TV rights. The match finished as a draw, so the reply was played last Wednesday also on Sky so another £100,000 each. The winner of the tie will get £30,000, and a very lucrative home tie against Premiership Ipswich. All in all, very rich pickings, added with money from gates, programs, pies and so on. With so many lower league clubs in big debts, the FA Cup can
be a real lifesaver and a real source of income. This is looking at a strictly business angle, as a fan the cup can be a great source of entertainment and the games can be both interesting and very, very special if your club does well. The current structure of the FA Cup is fairly complicated. As the draw is a total lottery, clubs can be drawn home or away, so the money handouts are split to compensate the clubs. For example a club can have a straight run of five away draws, they will pick up a share of the gate money that would ordinarily go straight to the home clubs. Ticket sales are split 50/50, with the home team able to pick up program sales and other food and other stuff. A certain percentage of all the takings goes into the FA Cup pot, that is then used to distribute the prize money. TV rights are sold between Sky and BBC, basically a club will get £100,000 each game, so televising a game can cost a cool quarter of a million quid. Another cynical view from me. As 50% of the gate money is taken to give to the other side, then clubs at home are very reluctant to give up that sort of money. Chesterfield were busted last year for fixing the gate receipts to give themselves a bigger cut. Clubs can very easily change the numbers, so less people official turn up than pay to get in. All money is taken as cash in hand on the turnstiles, so is very easy for the clubs to fix these. I am certainly not accusing any club by name, I can imagine that people do, do this, it is an easy enough thing to do. The basic format of the FA Cup is very simple. Each round is a straight knock-out, played over one single match. If the result is a draw then it goes to a replay, played at the other teams ground. The big boys from the Premiership and division 1 join the in the third round, but the FA Cup starts in July for many non-league teams. The first round proper is played in November with the teams from the third and second division entering with all the non-leagu
e team that have survived the four or five preliminary rounds. The FA cup can add a lot more games to the already packed football schedule for the top clubs. Manchester United caused a real stir a few years back when they pulled out of the FA Cup to play in a FIFA Championship for clubs in Brazil. They were heavily criticized for this, as they had a nice rest in the sun while others struggled in January in England and also it was seen as a big insult to such as prestigious competition that one club considered themselves to be above it. That is just the impact of the FA Cup, it is THE cup competition in England that everyone wants to win and accept no imitations like the Worthington Cup. There used to be a competition for all the cup winners from across Europe played, cunningly called the European Cup Winners Cup. This was abolished a couple of years back, so the winner of the FA Cup now goes into the UEFA Cup, a good access route into Europe for some. The list of winners of the FA Cup is a long list of all the top clubs in England (and Wales). It does follow periods of success for clubs, but does not necessarily go with the club that dominates the top league. Doing the ‘double’ of winning the top league and FA Cup in the same year is relatively rare, recently done several times by Manchester United and Arsenal in the 1990s. The first official FA Cup was held in 1872 and won by Wanderers FC, who defended their title the following year. I do not want this to be too educationally, I am on holiday now, but I thought I should add some factual stuff. The first FA Cup final to be held at Wembley was in 1923, the famous White Horse Cup Final won by Bolton over West Ham. Previously finals had been held across they country, including some now famous as cricket grounds. A certain non-league team called Tottenham won the FA Cup in 1901, the only non-league team to do so, and who said we would never hear from them again? The FA Cup was taken out of England
for the first time in 1927 when Welsh giants Cardiff beat Arsenal in a surprise final. Now of course the FA Cup is regularly taken out of England for the final in the Welsh capital. More recent winners in the 1990s have included Manchester United 4 times, Arsenal 2 times, and Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool 1 each, though Liverpool won again last year. Tottenham have a thing about winning the FA Cup in years ending in ‘1’, they have won it in 1901, 1921, 1961, 1981 and 1991, winning it 5 out of a total of 8 times then and came close last year in 2001, where they did much better than recent times, but still failed. Other great moments stick in your minds, it may be your famourite team on a good Cup run, a star player, moments of madness and skill alike, the cup is sure to pull out more of these for years to come, wherever it is held. The current holders are Liverpool, winning the final for the first time in Cardiff. The FA Cup final is currently being held there while a new national stadium is being planned, built, etc while they create another fine mess of it all. Wembely has staged the final for nearly eighty years, Cardiff seems a good alternative a magnificent new stadium, good facilities and seating, though there has been problems with transport and others. I can also feel that it will never live up to the fame and mystic created by the twin towers at Wembely. It is just the magic there, it’s very hard to explain, but it is the showpiece of the season and represents so much. As a kid it was a dream of many to be playing there, and I think it will take a long time for Cardiff to create any sort of a feeling like that. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ----------------------------- I had to re-write this opinion following the dismal display from Exeter on Wednesday as they were dumped out to Conference side Dagenham. Full cridit to them, the better side won on the day, but for
anyone interested it was an awful game, one of the worst City performances since Noel Blake left. The midfield was totally lacking with the usually tough defense was nowhere for the three goals. I made the long trip to East London, the ride home was very bad, again I was on Sky TV at the start with my Santa hat. Pity to lose a plumb tie against Ipswich, it could have cost £150,000 in TV and gate money as well as being a great occasion. Still they have made £220,000 so far that will go far to help the finance side. Good luck to Dagenham, like I say anything can happen in the cup. I am very busy with collage work at the moment, with two exams and two coursework assignments. Sorry for the lack of decent opinions lately, I am trying to get back to rating more often. I could have just left it to decent opinions ever, but hey. All comments more than welcome as usual, thanks for reading. Chris. Oh and Merry Christmas!! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------
For your opinions on the progress, past and future, of the F.A. Cup.