Things Are Looking Cup?
The FA Cup: “Pick a card, any card.”
The FA Cup: “Now €“ look at it, don't tell me what it is, but show it to me. Let me see it.”
The FA Cup: “Right, your card was the four of clubs. Ta-da!!”
The FA Cup: “Ok, tough crowd. Em €¦ try this one on for size. Now, as you can see I have a rabbit in my hat. Abracadabra, hey presto, open sesame €“ ta-da – I've transformed into a slightly dizzy and nauseous rabbit.”
The magic of the FA Cup hasn’t been up to a high standard for much of the last decade. The fact that Man Utd gave it a miss in pursuit of FIFA brownie points may be cited as the straw that broke the camel's attention span, but in the era of the Champions League and mushrooming TV revenues, the competition had started on it’s increasingly irrelevant trajectory long before.
But the fact that most neutrals were cheering on Dirty Leeds on Saturday night sums up what a remarkable edition of competition we’re having this season. Not too many tears were shed outside Yorkshire when the club reached for the stars and ended up with Dominic Matteo and tank full of tropical fish, but after their superb display at Old Trafford, the rehabilitation of the club's image continued with another gutsy performance against Premier League opposition. Elland Road on a cold winter’s night will look about as appealing as a party devoid of glamour models for the Tottenham players.
Stoke put in a good display to comprehensively beat Arsenal and reduce the representation of the Big 4 to one. Comments about the Gunners fielding a weakened team only slightly tarnished the achievement. There’s no doubt that Arsene Wenger included a handful of players still far from being genuine first team players, but the reality €“ whether he chooses to see it or not €“ is the bulk of the team he fielded were Premier League regulars and should have put in a better performance.
So where does all this romance leave us? Well, precisely the mixed feelings we had about it at the start of the season. There's a chance that the winners of the FA Cup will be the best team in the country, but there’s also a chance that they'll be Notts County. Whatever team eventually lifts the trophy will have merited it, but that merit is largely down to the random numbers drawn by the various ex-pros who happen to have a couple of anecdotes about the FA Cup. It’s not perfect, it may not be as important as it used to be, but as long as the FA Cup keeps throwing up giant killings and the possibility of gaudy white suits, it’s still worth watching.