I turned my telly on for the traditional 3pm kick off. I sat down with a Spanish friend who once played football at a high level in his own country. He had lived in England during the 1970’s and, for him, FA Cup final day was still special.
“Why are those seats empty?” enquired Luis.
So I had to explain that the new Wembley had been sold to the highest bidders and that the corporate clowns only showed up if they thought the final to be a fashionable one. Had the forthcoming Champions League final been an all Spanish affair I feel sure those seats would have been sold and occupied.
As for the FA Cup final, well those charged with running the competition had already done all they could to make the final as much of a must watch football match as a play off involving Sheffield United. The outcome would surely be as predictable.
In this instance the richest team would win. The bookies had Manchester City priced at 4-11 to beat relegation candidates Wigan (anyone take the 9-1 on the underdogs?)
I’d enjoyed an early lunch. Very early by Spanish standards when the first morsel does not usually cross the lips until 2.30pm.
So come 3.15 UK time I wondered why the big match had not begun.
“Who is this silly man?”, asked mi amigo Luis.
He was speaking of one Adrian Chiles.
“He is no Michael Robinson, is he? Who did he play for?”
I had plenty of time to explain that Adrian Chiles had never played the game and that he was once a very overweight presenter of a lunchtime business programme on the BBC.
I apologised to Luis. I said ‘Lo Siento’ for the fact that the FA had sold the final down the river. Kick off would not be until 6pm in Spain.
Siesta won the day over Chiles, Keane, Dixon and Southgate.
So it was that I slept through the interminable cliché ridden preamble. How do I know they said nothing of import? Because they never do.
Now it is possible that I dreamt I saw a boring game of football. A triumph of the banal over the brilliant. After all, I have heard since that this was a “great Cup final.”
Odd that. I do not recall Pele and George Best making guest appearances in the final I watched.
If this was “a great Cup final” my initials are RVP.
At one point I seriously considered slapping some emulsion on the wall just so I could watch it dry. I think it was around the 72 minute mark when the Batman and Robin of ITV football coverage called this uninspired football match ‘great.’
Now I know a bit about broadcasting live sport on TV. I know commentators have long been encouraged to ‘big up’ a match. This is not a new concept.
The best duo to ever commentate on football did so via radio. Bryon Butler and Peter Jones called a game as they saw it. They spoke as they found. But increasingly pressure was put on them to be positive about negative games. Denis Law (now there was a ‘great’) joined the Radio 2 commentary team and if the match he was watching lacked something, he was not afraid to say so. But that did not go down well with some at the BBC. Denis refused to speak of a dull match in glowing terms. So he left.
The problem with Clive (I scripted this clever ad lib last night) Tyldesley and Andy Townsend is that they couldn’t convince me that Anna Friel, Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz were sexy if said trio of beauties were undressed in front of me and said commentary duo were describing the scene.
But this Cup final had a sexy ending. One that saved the 2013 FA Cup final and guaranteed that the competition lives to fight another day.
No wonder outgoing FA Cup Chairman David Bernstein was smiling so widely at the final whistle. Like the rest of us, he’d been saved thirty minutes more of this dross.Manchester City players got out of the game what they put into it. Precisely nothing. Great Manchester City players such as Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee watched the game. What must they really think of the mercenaries who now wear the sky blue shirts with all the passion of dead fish.
The smirk on the face of Carlos Tevez when he was substituted said it all. The look of a spoiled child taken off during a school match.
He is just one of many footballers who sell themselves to the highest bidder. The English game is awash with them and Man City have their fair share.
They are the prostitutes of the modern game of football. Only they get paid more in a week than a hooker plying their trade on the streets of Manchester will earn in a lifetime. I imagine the ladies of the night offer their paying clients more satisfaction (though I stress I have no personal evidence to back up this assertion).
Those players offered their soon to be sacked manager Roberto Mancini zilch. They’ll get paid for doing very little at Wembley. They will not care a jot when Mancini is sent packing.
It was the Wigan players who put a shift in. It was they who respected the FA Cup final and gave everything to the cause. Inspired by a Chairman who actually played the game, and a manager who respects it, the Wigan players made every effort to win the game. Until 90 minutes and 6 seconds, when they scored a very classic English Cup final type of goal.
So it is that a football final, once respected the world over, still has a pulse.
No thanks to the FA who staged the game before the domestic League season has ended and at a time of day more readily associated with ‘Midsomer Murders’
But give them time. They’ll kill the FA Cup final eventually.