It’s FA Cup final weekend. Not that it feels like it.
I’m not old enough to recall classic finals of past years, played out in black and white. But I do remember the hours spent in front of BBC’s coverage of FA Cup final day back in the early 90’s, and it was always something special.
The famous ‘magic’ of the cup.
The Road to Wembley. The clips involving a member of each team introducing their team-mates. The coverage from around the stadium as fans started to arrive. The footage of each of the finalists leaving their hotel and arriving at Wembley.
It was a special occasion in the football calendar, and it felt like a special occasion.
How things have changed.
First there were sponsors added and it could no simply longer be called the FA Cup. Then there was the non participation of Man United in 2000, and an ever increasing number of reserve players on display, as clubs focus purely on the league. The final has been scheduled ahead of the league season’s conclusion, and this year will be played as part of a full weekend of Premier League fixtures. It is yet another blow to the reputation of a competition which was once so well respected.
As ITV and Sky Sports broadcast the build up to the match tomorrow, fans of eight Premier League clubs will be tuned into matches involving their own sides. Man United fans may be more concerned with too busy celebrating a title win than tuning in to see if their local rivals go yet another season without a major trophy.
The two finalists play their game in hand next week.
What would have been wrong with the Premier League insisting on having a full midweek league programme, leaving cup final weekend free for, well, the fup final?
Neither Man City nor Stoke fans will be too bothered. For many of them, it will be the most enjoyable footballing day out of their lives.
For many of us neutrals however, the FA Cup Final just feels a lot less magical than it once did.