Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sweet FA

The good old days
For the last 15 years I have been reduced to watching the FA Cup Final from afar, in retrospect, or not at all. Today I watched the four goals which Arsenal knocked in against Villa on YouTube in what looked like a one-sided but entertaining match.
During the first half of the 70s when I was between 9-14 years old, the FA Cup and particularly the final were very big deals for me and my brother. I remember in the school playground, in the week or two leading up to the Chelsea-Leeds match of 1970, everyone had to choose their team. I've no idea way we chose Leeds. We'd never even been there. Perhaps it was the crisp white kit?  Anyway, they lost following a replay, but no matter, Leeds were now our team. They won the next one (in its centenary year), and a couple of years later made it to the final again (losing to Sunderland). 
We would watch all the build-up, the teams having their breakfast, It's An FA Cup Knockout, interviews with the wives and groundsmen… And as 3 o'clock got nearer we'd lay out a rug out in front of the telly with all our Leeds paraphernalia: rosettes, pennants  scarves, mugs, rattles, stickers. We'd watch the coaches arrive, crawling through a sea of fans. Switch to the hallowed turf of Wembley for the marching band and the Queen being introduced to the players (…and this, Ma'am, is Alan Clarke, otherwise known as 'Sniffer'; and Peter Lorimer - he's got the hardest shot in football you know… Oh really, is that so?), and then over to Barry Davies, John Motson or Brian Moore. When someone scored it was a truly momentous, almost religious, event. I can still remember Charlie George scoring the winner in 1972 and simply lying down (at the time quite an unusual form of celebration). And then we'd watch it all over again on Match of the Day.  
Now? Well, it's easy to say it's not the same, but it isn't. Any mid-table league match will get a few hours devoted to it. Who cares about the Cup (let alone the other one, whatever it's called) when all that really matters is getting into the Champions League or avoiding relegation. Could I name the last five FA Cup winners? Could I not.

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