FA Cup final evens the playing field

There is something special about the English FA Cup which places the world’s oldest knockout competition on a special pedestal in the footballing world.

And all the ingredients are there for another afternoon at the new Wembley Stadium in the 133rd edition that will enthrall soccer lovers from Soweto to Sevastapol.

It is a graphic example of how the Cup has the almost magical ability to mock form and reward the brave of heart with the modest cloth cap Hull side facing the slick London aristocrats Arsenal on equal terms.

This contrast runs through to the opposing mana-gers; the unsmiling French aesthete Arsene Wenger on the Arsenal bench and the bluff broken-nosed Steve Bruce guiding the Tigers.

Last year’s result lent strength to the enduring notion that there are no favourites in a final. Substitute Ben Watson’s stoppage-time headed goal for the unfancied Wigan Athletic against mighty Manchester City proved that old adage conclusively.

It was the first time Wigan had made a final and was City’s 10th appearance – but past history has no real place in the realities of the 90 minutes ahead when the whistle sounds the start.

At the finish, the nail-biter was classified by the British press as the “greatest FA Cup Final upset for a quarter of a century”.

Comparisons with the 1988 final were inevitable. Back then a headed goal from Lawrie Sanchez handed the trophy to Wimbledon, a team dubbed the “Crazy Gang” for self-evident reasons, leaving a star-studded Liverpool side the surprise runners-up.

The Gunners will start strong favourites, but there can be little doubt that, across the globe, there will be those holding out the hope that the ribbons will be the yellow and black of the Hull underdogs.

today in print

today in print