Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Cups They Are A-Changin…

Even if Portsmouth win the FA Cup, one senses that the general public will not mind.

Naturally this would mean the top-flight team would have derailed the dreams of national glory for one of the three Championship sides competing in the upcoming semi finals. Yet there is a likability and internationality about Redknapp Snr's team.

The sizes of all four clubs involved in this stage of the competition and the fact that none of the top four remain, reminds us that the FA Cup is indeed unique.

Arsenal and Liverpool arguably do not have strong enough squads to land all three 'major' trophies – the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup. Chelsea and Manchester United on the other hand are capable of winning all three as well as the League Cup. Just a glance at the names that comprise the midfield of the Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge squads highlights their versatility and strength in depth: Fletcher, Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson, Park, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs.....Cole, Essien, Lampard, Makalele, Malouda, Mikel Obi, Sidwell, Smith and Wright-Phillips.

How refreshing then it is that none of these players will feature in this year's FA cup semi finals. How different. Money cannot buy success, as Mr. Abramovich is beginning to realise. Mourinho knew how to make the most of players at his disposal and his motivational ability and winning mentality permeated through his team. The clubs in this year's Cup should thank Mr. Abramovich for his part in Mourinho's 'mutual' departure.

The only criticism of this year's event, which has been pervasive in the media, particularly on Match of the Day and Sky Sports discussion panels, is the fact that these semi finalists will taste Wembley before the final itself. 'The Road to Wembley' should be renamed 'The Shortcut to Wembley'. However, maybe this year it is fitting. The chance of playing their semi finals at Wembley is a richly deserved opportunity for all three championship sides. Such a situation has taken decades to materialise and the odds suggest it may be a long time before it happens again.

Although it dampens the magic and the romance, this writer foresees a deserved victory for Portsmouth. It is the culmination of several years of excellent management, a solid infrastructure, regular player acquisitions and team building, solidarity and confidence.

Fratton Park boasts an exciting array of African talent (more on this theme to come on this blog in the near future) that is underpinned by a blend of English veterans and rising stars. David James resembles a good bottle of wine that can only improve with age whilst Sol Campbell uses each game to remind us why Wenger signed him at Arsenal and why he was chosen in the 2002 World Cup tournament team, even though England only reached the quarterfinal. Then there is the schizophrenic Glen Johnson whose length of hair has a positive correlation with his quality of play (the longer it is, the better he plays). Capello must surely see he deserves another chance in the senior squad.

However, do not confuse admiration for Portsmouth with a bias for Premier league teams. Should Cardiff, WBA, or Barnsley succeed, it will be a memorable moment in FA Cup folklore.

By Chris Thorpe Cuevas


Anonymous said...

interesting points, but don't you think that the big clubs maybe don't care about the FA cup as much as say the c.league or the premiership?

Theo said...

I agree - think this year shows that in terms of priority, FA Cup is slipping further and further down the list for the 'big four'. It's a real shame, cos it's a great trophy which has produced many memorable moments (the 1989 final between Liverpool and Everton is one of my first football memories).