Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Has the FA Cup Runneth Dry?
On a personal note, the cup brings up a feeling of warmth from my younger days in a time when if United wasn't involved in the final then you rooted for the underdog and sometimes they prevailed against all odds.
In 1973, as a youngster I watched Sunderland defeat the mighty Leeds United, and yes, they were a big side then. There I was eating a meat pie stood outside Granada Rentals in Manchester watching the match through the shop window after I had been dragged out shopping by my mum and elated that the cup holders Leeds had lost in what was then a huge shock.
It is true that the coverage of the final by the TV networks doesn't exactly mirror the past and it did kind of lose its appeal when the finals were moved to Cardiff when Wembley was undergoing its transformation, but none of that can detract from the sense of anticipation when the draw for the rounds is being made. I still remember the excitement that it brought when myself and my school friends huddled around a smuggled in radio at school waiting for United's number to be drawn with hopefully a home tie.
The BBC and ITV had cameras in the team's hotels, not to show staged interviews, but to follow the players around and get a sense of what they were feeling in the build-up to the final. I can still see the United captain Bryan Robson being interviewed as he was shaving in his hotel room.
This all day coverage brought the fans unique access to their heroes and gave us a glimpse into the world of a footballer and you know what it made us realise that apart from the money and fame the players were also fans like us.
We travelled with them on the team bus and could feel their anxiety as they approached the famous twin towers of Wembley Stadium as their loyal fans waved them on from outside the bus windows along the famous Wembley Way.
Nowadays, with the players protected from media intrusion you will be lucky to see inside the bus through the blackened out windows. When they say that the spirit of the cup has disappeared, then the clubs, the FA and the TV companies only have themselves to blame because they are the ones who have sullied its reputation by not taking it seriously. For exmaple, playing both semi-finals at Wembley was a bad move by the FA and one that was made for money and nothing else.
For some teams to win the famous trophy is their only chance of glory in an otherwise barren season. As a United fan growing up at a time when our bitter rivals from Liverpool dominated the 1st division on a regular basis, it was the FA Cup that was our only solace. A good run in the cup ending in a final was something that lifted our spirits, especially if we beat Liverpool along the way or even better defeated them in the final itself.
Enjoy the cup run and thanks for reading.