Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Few Final Thoughts

This morning, I am largely trying to get excited over the 2007 FA Cup Final. It should be easier than this. It's back at Wembley for the first time since 2000, and there will be all manner of pomp and pageantry about it (strangely, for a republican, I like a bit of pomp). Having said that, though... Manchester United and Chelsea might even provide as poor a match as Chelsea and Aston Villa did seven years ago. It's ironic, really, that you should even have to consider the concept of a bad football match between two teams that cost something like £700m to assemble. The problem is that Chelsea at least are (or rather were, until this season) a winning machine, who battered and bored their opponents into submission. Manchester United have at least played some football, at times.

Fortunately, the widely predicted media storm this week has been averted. There are a number of factors that caused this. Jose Mourinho's dog has caused him all manner of distraction this week, so he has been quieter than he would otherwise have been, but the ongoing rumblings of the West Ham affair have kept many eyes diverted elsewhere (and this one is going to run and run to such an extent that you just want to bang their bloody heads together - have you heard the latest proposal from Sheffield United's chairman? No? More on that tomorrow) and there is, I think, a sense of capitulation about the end of Chelsea's season which leaves them barely even up for a fight any more. After all the hyperbole, United won the League at a canter and it's Liverpool who are lining up in Athens on Wednesday night. For these clubs, the FA Cup isn't something you dream of winning, but a half-decent consolation for missing out on the real prizes. The fact that both of the teams playing don't much care for the FA Cup is our best hope of an open game.

So, who do we want to win? After all, watching football isn't quite the same if you have to watch it as a complete neutral, is it? Well, this has been taxing my tiny little brain, and I've come up with this rationale. There are more reasons to not want Manchester United to win it than there are to not want Chelsea to win it. You don't want the Glazer family, who confirmed their 14% price increase at Old Trafford for next season, to win it. You don't want Manchester United to do the double again. You don't want there to be even more justification for the way that United runs itself. So pathetic has the end of their season been, that you almost (not quite, but almost) feel sorry for Chelsea. They enter this match as pretty clear underdogs. Now, of course, you don't want to see them gurning and mugging for the cameras at the end of the match either, but I've kind of concluded that it would be the lesser of two evils. Plus, my brother-in-law is a Chelsea supporter, and he'd be delighted if they won.

There's a chance that I might not even see the second half of it. I've seen every FA Cup final since 1980, but this year I might even switch it off at half-time. We're going to meet friends this afternoon, and there is currently some debate over whether we should be meeting at 4.00 or 5.00. For the purposes of tradition, I am fighting my corner over 4.00, but it's not something that I am prepared to cause a scene over. That's how apathetic I am over this year's FA Cup final, and I'm fully aware that I'll see all the good bits (the build-up on the BBC, "Abide With Me", and so on). I might merely miss the second half of a match that I wouldn't usually cross the road to watch.

Meanwhile, good old Shrewsbury Town did what the whole world wanted last night and dumped Franchise out of the League 2 play-offs. Pardon me while I wipe away a tear of laughter, there.


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