Another mish-mashed FA Cup weekend which seems only to fuel the mean-spirited bleeders who reckon that the tournament is a busted flush and should be replaced by summat even more likely to allow some cash-wielding mercenaries to canter cheerily up the Wembley steps.
Well one set of greedy buggers were dumped out courtesy of the most unsympathetic of football weapons, the Boot of a Neville. Phil gathered himself, visualised the ball on the spot as the shinbone of Cristiano Ronaldo and smacked it home.
But there’ll still be those that argue in favour of the seeded draw. This they say would avoid the travesty of finals like Millwall-ManU (the only time when the New Den cries of ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’ must have rung pretty hollow to their opposition’s fans).
Well, I’ve seen more disappointing finals to be frank.
The Spice Boys circa 1996. The Old Spice Boys now, I suppose.
I seem to remember Liverpool v Man Utd in ’96 when Cantona saved the nation from extra time and spared us any more cack from Merseyside’s brigade of wanky white-suit wearing wallies. Apparently both sides were pretty major teams at the time.
Arsenal v United in 2005 wasn’t the best two and a half hours of my life either. Mind you them hours were spent in the back of a Ford Transit van on my 26th birthday. No, I won’t elaborate. I also remember Sunderland beating the Damned United, and Southampton – a ragtag of wandering veteran minstrels – somehow taking out Tommy Doc’s crop of vibrant men-in-waiting. Both these clubs were so unlikely to win that they were underbunnies – the ones the underdogs have for breakfast.
The idea persists amongst the pro-seeding lobby that what the FA Cup requires is a final between the two best clubs in the country. Why? Chances are that ManU will play the Arse in the last eight. Good. We might get the less than usual suspects at the final.
You might also want to bear in mind that the top (or tell you waht. let's make that the richest) use the Cup as a run-out for the sulky subs get to have a run-out, and that the manager spends the next ninety minutes with his fingers crossed hoping that the squad makeweights might muster a performance. Of course if it’s Arsenal you’re up against then you counter the meaningless tippy-tap with a big scary substitute and you’re laughing – though maybe not quite as much as Barry Hearn thinks.
"Lawks love a duck innit marvellous, etc!"
I mean I know that’s a cash cow and a half for Barry Hearn but the Matchroom Maestro has been milking it like an engorged wet nurse ever since. And the boys are off to Vegas. Been there – it’s shite. One night and I wanted to stick a neon bulb up the backside of every ivory-toothed croupier in the whole of the Goddamn city.
But any road, to me the whole point of the FA Cup is its randomness. You can have Chelsea-Arsenal in the third round. You can sneak a win at a Premier League ground and get rewarded with an away trip to Peterborough or somewhere a bit crap like that. It’s luck, is all it is.
Seeding would guarantee a Premier League club for some and yet by and large it would also prevent a club like Crawley from getting to Round 5. The hardheads’ll tell you that the minnows can then get a guaranteed pay-day. Them that value the Cup above its ability to pay the bills – like me – will tell you that every FA Cup year needs its story and if by the time of the last 32, there’s no collection of no-marks with a dream in their hearts and a Ronnie Radford rasper in their boots then you might as well consign the competition to the potty days of footy history.
‘Do you remember the Football Association Cup, Bert?’
‘Yes, ha ha! Laughable wasn’t it? D’you know back then people used to play football for the love of it?’
‘Ha Ha! The soft-minded paupers!’
‘Apart from Manchester City of course –‘
Now my only regrets about expressing this view is that (a) I’ve depicted meself as some sort of moist-eyed moron who’s bought into the romance of the Cup without applying his poor sentimental brain to the harsh realities of modern sport (partly because that is 80% true) and (b) I find myself agreeing with BBC Radio 5Live’s new Voice of Football Reason Robbie Savage.
"I speak my mind, I do - which should take about 23 seconds max"
Now there was a time when no one had a good word to say about Savage – although I always thought tosspot was a very good word to say about him. What can you say about him? He gave 110%? He wasn’t completely shite? He’s got very shiny hair?
That’s about it. Other than that he was a needly little bleeder who used incitement and niggling as compensation for his lack of pace and talent. A kind of honorary Neville in a way.
So how come people keep telling him he’s a legend on phone-ins? I mean he’s not the worst pundit I’ve heard. He’s not the ironically named Mark Bright. Or Garth ‘just cos I use the occasional long word doesn’t mean I’m not talking shite’ Crooks. Or Andy ‘decent bloke but as empty as Space’ Townsend.
He can string a few words together I suppose although whether them words have owt to do with each other is anyone’s guess.
The only thing about Savage which I can sort of understand is that he’s one of them players that you loathe unless he’s wearing your team’s colours. That suddenly legitimises him. A bit of ankle-tapping – well, football’s a man’s game, eh Robbie? In the ear of the ref for ninety minutes – well he’s just using his experience...
It’s just that a bit of an attitude doesn’t make you an insightful pundit does it now? I mean you only have to listen to that arrogant plank Brian Moore on the rugby to realise that.
And if that’s the pot calling the kettle an ethnic minority then so be it.