If I told you my favourite early memory of the FA Cup involved Sandy Toksvig – yes, the woman who used to present Bake Off – you’d probably think I’d had a few too many bottles of Dog!
Let me explain…it was 21st May 1983…
A 10-year-old football mad bairn from Kenton, climbed excitedly from his bed and ran downstairs at 9.30am on Saturday morning, and duly parked himself in front of the Telly Box to watch No 73, a kid’s TV show hosted by Sandy.
Ahead of me was 5 and half hours of build up to the FA Cup Final between Manchester Utd and Brighton and Hove Albion – and it was all about to begin with Sandy and Neil Buchanan on No 73.
Yes, there was no United involvement, but still, 5 and half hours of wall-to-wall football on the telly building up to THE biggest match of the domestic football season.
The day had it all.
Rosettes, Scarves, Flags, Christopher Biggin sand Bonnie Langford pretending they were football fans – the whole country, interested in football or not, was excited.
Back then we even had the excitement of watching the teams leave their hotel, get on a bus, sit on a bus, play cards on a bus, and then get off a bus underneath the famous Wembley Towers…usually wearing the worst suits you’ve ever seen. Liverpool 96 anyone?
We’d then watch the two teams have a wander around the pitch, taking in the excitement and atmosphere before we lapped up the ridiculous Wembley Way interviews with Little and Large, Cannon and Balland Jimmy Tarbuck. Shortly before kick off the house would fall silent so you could all soak up every last note of Abide with Me and the National Anthem…
And then came the match itself – and let’s be honest, it didn’t matter if it was shite, because it was THE FA CUP FINAL.
Then, after the losers had trudged up the 39 steps to disconsolately collect their medals, you’d then watch the winners skip up those same 39 steps to hoist the famous trophy aloft – and then you’d soak up every last minute of the lap of honour. Every last minute of coverage…
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) December 24, 2020
And still it wasn’t over.
To finish the day, you’d head to the nearest park to recreate the highlights of the match with your pals – armed with your leather caser – and screech out the commentator’s highlights…”AND SMITH MUST SCORE?!”…
How I feel sorry for todays younger generation, because they didn’t get the chance to live the FA Cup experience that so many of us grew up with.
For every Gazza goal into the top corner at The Gallowgate end vs Swindon, they now have to listen to Pep, Pardew, Charnley et al telling them “The Premier League is the Priority”.
For every Keith Houchen header for York City against Arsenal (on a pitch that would shred rigger boots), they now endure their heroes being benched or even left out of the squad entirely – because “The Premier League is the Priority”.
For every Lawrie Sanchez Wembley winner for the Crazy Gang to upset the culture club (© John Motson), they have come to expect the mystery ‘knock’ that sees their star striker unavailable for this weekend’s cup tie, because you know it – “The Premier League is the Priority”.
So, why have our kids been deprived of the excitement of the FA Cup that we all experienced?
The FA have been complicit in devaluing the most famous, most exciting, most respected Cup Competition in the world of club football.
In my opinion, 1999-2000 sounded the final death knell.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) January 8, 2021
When Manchester United voluntarily withdrew from the competition to fly half-way round the world to take part in a worthless competition, to “expand their brand” – the FA should have made an example of them.
A ban, 2 years or so, would have got the message across to the clubs and their fat cat owners and chairmen.
Instead, the FA allowed the then ‘biggest club side in the world’ to act as the starting pistol for the systematic dismantling of the greatest club competition in the world
Since then, this has snowballed to what we see today – a competition that is now seen by, not only ‘The Big Six’ ©, but also the majority of the Premier League and even some of the Championship as a hindrance – a fixture too many in early January following the ‘feast of festive football`(© Sky Sports)
That said, at the ripe old age of 47, I cannot honestly tell you that at 17:29pm on Saturday night, my mind will not drift off, imagining what MIGHT be.
What if we get a few lucky decisions, a few lucky bounces, and a few lucky draws?
What if we actually went all the way?
What if Wor Jamal could climb those 39 (?) steps on 15th May 2021 and lay his hands on that famous old pot?
Well, if that were to happen, you might just hear the youngest 48 year old NUFC fan in the country in his local park screaming…”AND WILSON MUST SCORE, AND HE HAS!!!!”
We can dream. Can’t We?
LEE FORSTER – @LeeDForster