THE thing about blogs is that, however many ideas you have, you will eventually start to repeat yourself. So having written about the unromance of the FA Cup 12 months ago (more or less to the day), I see no reason why I shouldn’t dig up the same idea again and change one or two of the words to make it look like a new and original piece.
The wonderful thing about the FA Cup is that there is no way the draw could possibly be fixed. If it was, it wouldn’t throw up so many rubbish ties. I had plenty of time to ponder this fact back in January 2004, when I drove for 10 hours from Manchester to South Wales and back in a day to cover a third-round tie between Swansea and Macclesfield.
This weekend, it’s poor old Bury who have the FA Cup trip from hell, being forced to make the six-hour schlep to Norwich with next to no chance of victory. The other week, I asked a journalistic colleague who covers Bury on a regular basis if he would be making the trip to Carrow Road. “No, I’ll wait for the replay,” he deadpanned.
It’s Reading striker Dave Kitson, the Premier League most ginger-haired footballer, who has brought the FA Cup’s unromance back into focus with a withering dismissal of the competition ahead of tomorrow’s third-round tie at Tottenham.
“We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not give two s***s about it to be honest,” he said. Except on the BBC website, where the ghost of Mary Whitehouse appeared to be hovering over him, and he instead came out with: “We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not care less about it, to be honest.”
So who is going to stick up for the cup, with its string of forgettable third-round ties such as Barnsley v Blackpool, Colchester v Peterborough and Brighton v Mansfield?
Step forward, Sven-Goran Eriksson. About to take part in his first FA Cup tie at the age of 59, Manchester City’s manager went all poetic ahead of tomorrow’s game at West Ham.
“If you talk to football people in other countries, everyone in Italy, Portugal and Sweden is jealous of the FA Cup,” said Sven, sounding for all the world as if he spent his childhood in Varmland glued to a black-and-white television set watching Stanley Matthews dribble round lumbering full-backs to the soundtrack of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s clipped commentary.
“It is the biggest domestic cup there is. Everyone takes it seriously. It’s beautiful. It would be very nice to sit on the bench at Wembley in a suit with a rosette.”
It is actually quite reassuring to know that at least someone is treating the FA Cup seriously. So I’m going to take a little of Sven’s positivity and enthusiasm with me tomorrow to Prenton Park, where I’ll be watching the third-round tie between Tranmere and Hereford.
I’m going to be positive because in the FA Cup, you never know quite where the big story is going to be. It’ll still be an Arsenal v Chelsea final, though.