Saturday is the FA Cup final, and for sentimental reasons I’ll probably be watching, in part because it’s Arsenal with a chance of finally winning a title, but mostly because the FA Cup final was a childhood fixture – one of these things you’d talk about for weeks ahead, plan where and how to watch, and fret over if a team you liked was in it. And, later, stock beers for and plan after-parties.
The FA Cup isn’t what it was – it’s not where the big money is, and there’s so much more sports on TV here now. Plus it’s probably feeling the squeeze from being close to the Champions League final. But the nostalgia remains, and there’s still some fine matches once in a while. So I’ll be ready on Saturday – or at least I’ll record it so I can watch parts of it. And I’ll be rooting for Arsenal.
Something else that isn’t what is was is the teams – specifically, their lineups. This year is the 35 year anniversary of the “Five Minue Final” – the one where Liam Brady defeated Manchester United 3-2 and all the action occurred in the last five minutes. On that day, two of the biggest teams in British football fielded teams with a solid base of English players, each adding a handful of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish players (including, obviously, Liam Brady). On Saturday, Arsenal will field two, maybe three English players, and none from Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. In fact, Arsenal will probably have more German and French players than English on the field, and Premier League teams have more than once gone into a game with not a single British player on the field.
It’s a little scary, btw, that I still remember that game. I guess there’s some psychological effect related to the adrenaline rush of the team your rooting for dropping a sure win on the floor in the last five minutes, only to take it back again.