The Magic of the FA Cup is with us tomorrow as it’s the fourth round and if you win then you are three games from Wembley (er… that’s two nowadays as all semi-finals are at Wembley)…if you are of a certain age then it is a joyous occasion. Those of us who are old enough to remember Hugh Johns on Star Soccer can also remember an era when not every game was live on TV and therefore it all felt a bit magical.
(Ronnie Radford & Ricky George…Hereford…no more info needed)
Believe it or not kids, there was also a bygone age where the secondary European trophies were really prestigious (in fact, there were three…Cup-Winner-Cup anyone?) Qualifying for them was a huge fillip for your club who in turn picked their best players and there was a tingle in the air at cup fixtures.
Anyone remember Ipswich beating AZ Alkmaar 5-4 over two legs in 1981?
Of course not every cup competition had the same lustre (this one’s for you Duncan)…
…but the FA Cup has definitely stood the test of time.
We had John Motson giving us breaking news that Wycombe’s FA Cup tie with Peterborough was postponed…
Steve Foster’s headband, Gordon Smith’s miss and Jimmy Melia’s shoes…
Alan Sunderland’s manic celebrations after a classic five minutes with Manchester United…
Keith Houchen’s diving header…
Paul Gascoigne’s screamer past David Seaman (although this was a Wembley semi-final so possibly the start of the demise)…
And top flight Birmingham’s home defeat to non-league Altrincham in 1986 is just a smattering of the moments that have stuck in my memory…
However, we have since been given wall to wall football where I can listen to the Chelsea U23’s in the Checkatrade Trophy on Talk Sport 2; watch pretty much every game in the top European leagues live on a satellite channel and every club appears to have their own TV channel to watch live or at worst highlights of your team’s performance.
I’m not saying this is wrong as its “progress” but if you are under 16 why would you have any romantic association with the FA Cup. All the semi-finals are at the same venue as the final where I can watch a stack of other fixtures on a regular basis.
We are constantly told that players need to be rotated as ‘league games are more important’ and so witness a host of clubs ‘resting’ players and turning supporters off even more.
It is killing the cup by stealth and there are even rumours that Birmingham may rest some players for tomorrow’s Fourth Round clash with Premier League Huddersfield as they have a crunch league fixture on Tuesday against Sunderland.
I hope that isn’t the case as the best memory of supporting Birmingham came when they won the Carling Cup against Arsenal in 2011. Yes, we got relegated the same season but that will happen to clubs like Birmingham anyway so they might as well try and win a trophy as it lifts the spirits of all the people who invest thousands of pounds over their lifetime in following a football team.
To be fair to Steve Cotterill earlier this month he played a full strength team against Burton in the third round and he was rewarded with a victory, a boost to confidence and happy supporters.
As my pal and I were waiting for our train back to Burton, we stopped off at one of the closest boozers to New Street (Grand Central) Station 140- Post Office Vaults B2 4BA.
It’s a well-documented boozer by bloggers and has been a cracking addition to Birmingham’s drinking scene and is generally full.
Saturday night at around 8pm was no exception as it was bursting at the seams as we managed to shoehorn ourselves into the role of experienced bar blockers as there was nowhere else to go.
However, the Post Office Vaults is not a raucous place so when all of a sudden a lad shouted out “YES, YES, YES” there was a deathly quiet and lots of raised eyebrows.
He was in a party of six and it emerged they were Stoke fans waiting for the train back to The Potteries after being knocked out the FA Cup at Coventry. It just proves that there is a little bit of magic left in the Cup as an upset/shock can still cost high-profile managers their job and the clearly excited Stokie followed it up with “Hughes has gone” and he promptly marched off with his pals to board the train. They were absolutely fine and not a jot of trouble.
A few more head shakes and suitably “disgusted from Tunbridge Wells” style looks followed but then it was business as usual with people chatting, a great atmosphere and some cracking beers.
I had a Freedom Four Lager (Freedom) and it hit the spot whilst looking around this is clearly a place that has a cracking atmosphere but I can’t imagine a rendition of Delilah breaking out (or any football song for that matter) and being met with universal approval.
It also, just for a minute, brought home a little bit of the long gone, I suspect forever, magic of the FA Cup and whilst clocks can’t be turned back I do miss quite how exciting this cup competition was.