When I was a kid the FA Cup held romance. I recall going to Yeovil in ’71 to see Big Raddy play on their once famous sloping pitch. We went on to Wembley that year to see Charlie George score his wonderful goal and win the Double. In those days one had to collect all the stamps in the matchday programmes to obtain a ticket, and if you were missing one – disaster ! But I had been to all the home games that season and bought all the programmes, I was a winner and so was Frank Mclintock.
In later years, I watched us almost throw the Cup away after being 2 up with 10 minutes to play in Liam’s final game for us. Then came the GG years and the seemingly annual trips to Wembley, followed by our regular trips to Cardiff, when winning the FA Cup seemed our right ( apart from being robbed by the referee and Owen in 2001). My favourite Cup Final was Freddie’s. We stayed in a brilliant hotel, Cardiff was bedecked with Gooners wearing Freddie wigs or red sprayed hair and we were playing the Chavs, who are supported by many of my close friends. Of course, he had to score, and what a goal it was.
I didn’t attend the last time we won the Cup, with Paddy’s final kick in an Arsenal shirt, and watching the game on television it seemed the correct decision.
The FA Cup is THE Cup, Arsene is right to say that the Carling Cup holds little value, when we talk of the “Cup”, we all know which cup it is. Which brings me to the point of the post….. Why do I not care a jot that we are not playing today? What happened to trivialize the FA Cup for me? Sure, I would be delighted if we got to Wembley, and won the FAC again, but quite honestly I believe AW was right to play an understrength team at Stoke. I prefer that we have a day off prior to the important game at Porto. In my opinion, Wenger would have put out a weakened team should we have beaten Stoke, and I would have agreed.
Could it be that winning the Double twice has reduced the Cup’s value? Or that we became too accustomed to getting to the Final, or is it the inexorable rise of the Champions League? Probably the latter. There is far more excitement and sense of achievement in reaching the last 8 in Europe than beating Wigan at home to get to the FAC semi’s. A memory has just floated in…. I was at Old Trafford watching to see us beat Spurs in the semi’s – it was Sol’s last game for Spurs prior to seeing the light and leaving the Forces of Darkness. I recall a surging run from an imperious Vieira before Pires came onto a low cross to guarantee a celebratory drive home. But will I think of this on a cold night or will it be Sol scoring in Paris ? You know the answer ….. both !
My conclusion is that our European adventures have dimmed the light of the FA Cup to such an extent that it is an afterthought. I realise that many Gooners will disagree with me, they retain the romantic attachment, and say it is Silverware (which is unquestionably true). But I have fallen out of love with it. Gone is the exclusivity of a game live on TV, gone is the excitement of the all day build up, the coach arriving at Wembley, the Abide with Me, the man dressed in the England suit and Mottie’s sheepskin jacket.
But I will never forget that sunny day in ’71 when Frank lifted the Cup. As the Boss says…. Glory Days