Monday, April 7, 2008

The FA Cup's upsetting final – Ebren

Harry Redknapp – the nicest man in football – has finally made it to a final. And he's done it with former Championship strugglers Pompey. His CV currently includes no wins of any note (no, the Johnstone's Paint Trophy or whatever it was called back then doesn't count).

And we should be happy. We really should. But I'm not.

Because he didn't beat Chelsea or Liverpool to get there. Barnsley did that. He didn't beat Arsenal – that was Man U. He beat Man U in a travesty of a result. That might be applauded. And if he had beaten premier league opposition in the semi I would be happy.

But he didn't.

For all the glamour of the cup – and the frequency and impressiveness of the upsets – money won both semi finals.

Portsmouth are not a true plucky little club made good (for that read Wigan – or in the past Wimbledon or Southampton who have all made finals in the last 20 years). They have been funded to their success by Milan Mandric and Alexandre Gaydamark.

They are not an example of English success (nine Englishmen in a first-team squad of 35 – and one of those is cup-tied). Including Brits and those out on loan this number increases to 11. West Brom have 16. And while they aspire to playing "good" football, their success this weekend was based on two clean sheets.

Their win represents a triumph for a club chasing Europe – with internationals from eight countries on display – over one chasing a place in the Premier League based on money brought in by local support. It was a won by a goal created by a handball from the former top-scorer in the European Championships and European Cup winner and scored by a Nigerian who has won the FA Cup, the Premier League, and the European Cup. (Kanu has, to be fair, also been relegated and is about 50).

Their manager is a proper east London bloke – Happy Go Lucky Harry. Styled in the Terry Venables mould. And, no, that's not necessarily a good thing.

And that's not looking at Cardiff.

Cardiff aren't English. They left their home league chasing money and "better competition". They beat the people that did the hard work for them (Chelsea and Liverpool knocked out). They are owned by Peter Risedale (who it's nice to see re-employed Stephen McFail after his Leeds days) and have – amongst others – Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbank, Trevor Sinclair and Robbie Fowler in their squad. Barnsley slipped into the relegation zone this weekend, while Cardiff are safe and arguably pushing for a play-off spot.

Cardiff are less odious than Pompey – but still. After a FA Cup of shocks and revelations, the semi-finals were upsetting in an entirely different way.


Margin said...

The semis were upsetting for you.

For the Pompey fans I drank with on Saturday night, or the Barnsley fans I dranks with on Sunday evening - the semi-finals were glorious.

And while neither was a great game, and it might have been better had the other teams won (though West Brom with several cups already were surely the big boys in their semi?), fans who have never in their lives experienced the brilliance of following their team to the final got just that.

And that is fantastic. Both Cardiff and Pompey fans will hope reasonably to win the cup in their big day.

Frankly - may fans of many more clubs experience the month they are about to enjoy too.

Ebren said...

I never begrudge fans of a club their moment in the sun (with the exception of Sutton fans, the bastards).

But the statements in the press elsewhere annoyed me. As I said - well done on getting to the semis - but this victory was not one to be proud of. And it wasn't good for English football. And people keep claiming it is.

Here are a few examples of what' pissed me off:
Hats off to harry
Harry Redknapp is so much more than ’Appy ’Arry
Hail Harry, a true English boss from the old school
Pompey in Cup final: Washed up? Not if you're Happy Harry

Margin said...

Ah - so its the press you are angry at - not the football?

In which case - spot on.

the headline's "a true english boss from the old school" mentality is perhaps why he's suspected of corruption and has never won a trophy before...?

Ebren said...

I also don't like being informed "no one will begrudge Harry his place in the cup final".

Crap. I can, and do.

Don't tell me what to think.

Personally, I'd have preferred West Brom to be there by miles (highest-scoring side in the football league, un-pretentious fans, good fun, young manager, not owned by Israeli/French/Russian son of a man who clearly did not make all his money from a translating business).

Ebren said...

p.s. Pompey deserved to win. Johnson, Campbell and James were far too good for West Brom's attack. I've not seen a full-back that dominant (Johnson) for a long time.

Miller and Kim looked good - but were arguably introduced too late.

andrewm said...

Interesting points. I have a lot of respect for Redknapp actually. I think he's doing a very good job. I also think he's been treated like shit by the press many times in the recent past and deserves - if that's the right word - to have good coverage for once.

Having said that, I really couldn't care less about the FA Cup. As a Liverpool fan I was pleased when Barnsley knocked us out - for them and for us. It's a distraction from the real business of the league and Europe. Just my opinion, and not one I expect or hope that most would share.

andrewm said...

Also, it's dangerous to go down the route of saying that you're only deserving of credit if you beat the big teams on your way to the final (or in the final).

andrewm said...

I should have kept this all to one comment, but I'm distracted for some reason.

Anyway, I do think it's been a poor competition for those not directly involved. I don't agree that neutrals should be excited by the romance of it, not when it comes down to two poor Championship sides facing off. In anyone's book who isn't a fan of Barnsley or Cardiff, that's crap. Did anyone else watch West Brom vs Bristol Rovers? Goals galore, terrible football.

It reminds me distinctly of World Cup 2002. For a few days it's exciting as so many big teams fall, but then you realise you're left with an appalling spectacle.

Admit it: we all find it embarrassing when they do those profiles of the non-league players when they come up against the premier league side in the third round. It may be their big day and we're pleased for them in a vague sort of way, but they need to be dealt with so that in the later rounds we can enjoy what we all want to see: quality players in competition.

Well, not this year.

bluedaddy said...

Ach yer miserable feckers! The FA Cup can stand a year off from you know who, and Pompey and Cardiff have made a good fist of it, beating what was in front of them. Granted the semis were pretty gash, but what's new there?

In the quarters, Portsmouth knocked out the favourites, the league champions no less, and Cardiff easily knocked out a Boro side - with an English manager and built on English money (as far as I know) - who could so easily have made the final, but didn't appear to be bothered. More fool them.

West Brom may be a prettier side than Pompey but for me they were rubbish in the semi, far too controlled, and too many poor crosses when then did get in behind Pompey.

Both finalists have good noisy fans that deserve an FA Cup final. I hope other clubs will watch and appreciate what it means to those fans, and bust a gut in the future to reward them with the best day out most fans can look forward to in domestic football.

As for that first BBC link in Ebren's original blog - 'centred around!! centred a-fucking-round! On the BBC too. Shocking.

mimi said...

As you all know, I'm no expert on the English Football scene, but I'm with Bluedad here.

Let the fans go away with it and cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.

What does it matter? All should rave and have fun. It's better that we have an FA Cup with some passion than the same as last year's dullness.

guitougoal said...

Always happy to see a small club moving up but honestly there is more and more a lack of interest from the big clubs to participate except if they are not contending for the other trophies.(CL and Premier)

Margin said...


I'm not sure that's true.

The top clubs have dominated the competition for quite some time - and I don't think anyone would say ManU and Chelsea cared any less for the FA Cup last year than anyone else.

Its just an easy lie for those clubs to pretend they lost because they didn't care. They clearly do (with perhaps Liverpool an odd exception under Rafa).

Ebren said...

Okay - I feel the need to make myself clear on three points here.

Firstly, I think it's been a fantastic year for the FA cup. A reminder that a randomly drawn cup springs surprises, that the top four teams can be beaten, and that the finalists (be they Man U and Chelsea or Portsmouth and Cardiff) deserve to be there. They have to win and keep winning to get there - and it isn't a fix or inevitable, You have to earn it.

Secondly - I am pleased for Pompey and Cardiff, and their fans. They don't get to go to Wembley for a final very often and I hope they have a great time.

Thirdly, what I'm angry about is the media coverage. All that's been great about this year (for me) and everything that's being praised happened before the semis. You don't praise the finalists for giant killing (neither killed giants to reach the final, they beat poorer clubs below them in the league). But all the attention's been lavished only now, at this stage, seemingly meaning it's the semis that made them praiseworthy. And don't, ever, tell me what I am thinking. Statement's like "no one can begrudge" or "everyone will be happy to see" are bad journalism at the very least. It's the same as the "dream final for neutrals" (Man U vs Arsenal or MAn U Arsenal in the last few years have been "dream finals" - neither impressed).

And finally a wish - can we have an all guns blazing final like West Ham Liverpool please.

guitougoal said...

"they don't care", they probably do but it's obvious that in february for example when managers start rotating, they pick these cup games to rest the key players don't they?
But I do agree with you and Ebren, for Pompey and Cardiff fans it's fantastic and for these who get the chance to spend an afternoon at Wembley,it's astronomically greater than the sun.

PW75 said...

You anti-Sutton bastard.

Ebren said...

They had it coming

mimi said...

How much does it matter anymore?

The top dogs are not in the Cup so they don't care. I care because I'm Welsh, but Cardiff City ...

offsideintahiti said...

Why would the Big 4 bother with the FA Cup when they can fight it out among themselves in essentially the same way on the Champions League stage?

mimi said...

Offy: they are not all in the CL final. Such fun. Some dirty foreigners have spoiled the party.

Tweet it, digg it