The magic of the FA Cup - Making dreams disappear
The FA Cup. The most romantic thing about English football. I’ve never really understood that.
You’d never persuade your other half that several thousand men chanting songs with swear words in them would be a romantic gesture, but we’re told year after year about the romance and magic of the cup.
Well, if you want magic, West Ham could certainly do with a wand being waved over them.
Ahhh, West Ham. The first real true love of my life.
Never has a relationship been so one-way.
All the time and effort I have spent getting to know you. Trying to understand you. And though your pull is less strong than it was in the past, rest assured, my beloved Hammers, that if I had the time and the money, I’d be there with you far more often.
That’s a point. The money. Oh, my, the money that I have spent following you. Not as much as many, I’ll agree, but far more than some.
After losing to lower league Aldershot in the League Cup at the start of the season, and a league campaign that has stuttered and started for months now, it seemed as though many expected us to beat Sheffield Wednesday - a team in a league below us. But I know West Ham too well for that. Far too well.
The manager travelled up there and decided to keep half of his team out. Rumours abound that our star defender, James Tomkins, is being sold as he’s not cup-tied having not played. Or that our keeper, Rob Green, forever remembered for conceding THAT goal in the World Cup, hasn’t signed a new contract and so will be off sooner rather than later.
We had a squad of youngsters which should have won the match. Instead, we lost. 1-0. A goal in the 88th minute. West Ham crash out of the cup. Again.
Then the arguments start. Those that are deeply upset by the loss, or wanted a cup run (something I’ve never quite understood given that losing in the Semi- or Quarter-Final is as hard, if not harder, than going out straight away) start moaning that it’s not good enough, or that we should have started with our better players.
The argument against this is that had we started with our better players, we could have ended up with an injury to someone important or that we still could have lost the game anyway. It’s a fruitless argument full of what-ifs and maybes.
What if we had played the first team - We could have had a morale-lifting cup run.
What if we had played the first team - We could have had an energy-sapping cup run.
What if we had won this game - we could have gone on to win the FA Cup.
What if we had won this game - we could have gone on to win the FA Cup. Or not. Or not gain promotion.
Arguing about possibilities in football is futile. It’s akin to those that use umbrellas when the rain is so hard that it seems to fall sideways.
I’ll never want West Ham to lose a match, but there are occasions when I am not overly bothered by it - a sentence I never thought I would find myself writing a decade or two ago.
Life goes on, in the manager we trust, and ultimately promotion is the most important thing this year.
If that promotion comes at the expense of cup runs and - dare I say it - entertaining football, as much as I dislike it, I’d take it.
Football has changed. The magic of the FA Cup? The Premier League is everything, and it all feels slightly dirtier for admitting it.