Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Up For the Cup #2.

As good as it is I see no reason why you, oh loyal reader should have to do anymore link jumping than is absolutely nessecary. Accordingly I have reproduced my most recent NYCanaries article here in full. I've also added some additional commentary in the way that Ron Howard might add to the latest "Arrested development" dvd. (Author's commentary is in brackets)
"The decorations are down, the last guests have left and the FA Cup third round is here again. A new year, new hopes, new dreams.
I like to start the new year with the third round. It allows me a few days to shake off the hangover and get the resolutions out of the way.

( The Competition actually starts in August with non league amateur teams. By November the First round proper has taken place and in the first week of january the monied teams are involved)

A few sips of coffee later, out of the cup at West Ham.

(I have no issues with West Ham, their cockney chirpiness helped us to win the war. The Germans may have dropped millions of bombs on the east end of London but they kept smiling and singing silly songs about scrap metal and old women underneath kitchen tables).

Then it started to rain.
I'll admit that I would rather survive in the Premiership than enjoy a cup run.
Even a successful one.
But just stop what you're doing and think about a cup run and what it would mean for Norfolk.
There's something a little special about it, the media frenzy, the newspapers going crazy, 'Look East' running around like a headless coot looking for celebrity Norwich fans, perhaps Stephen Fry? Brittany Spears? That bloke who plays Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter movies? The national media being oh so mildly patronizing about the plucky East Anglians. Football Focus doing a special from Gentleman's walk? The team making a Cup Final song with Cathy Dennis? Special trains laid on, Norwich airport full of yellow and green cup final flights ,courtesy of Air Cymru. The EDP 36 page full colour supplement.

(Look East is the local TV News show, nightly at 6.30. They tell you all about teenage road death and lost or amusing pets, The EDP is the local newspaper, the same thing really but with a greater emphasis upon medical negligence and agricultural accidents. Football Focus is the national, long running, Saturday morning football special.)

Alright so we're out, again.
But I still love the cup. Always have, and always will. It's the one thing that we have never won that I think we should have won (I think our best chance was in 1989) and the one thing that I would dearly love to see us win.
The'Cup' has a funny effect on me. I like to think that I'm a fairly liberal, modern thinking sort of bloke, making my way through a troubled and difficult world.
Yet whenever the FA Cup is mentioned I get all misty eyed and start reminiscing about a time that I know nothing about. I start thinking about King George VI, sitting there at the Empire Stadium, Wembley, chainsmoking his way through a game played between two brylcreemed teams. I start to yearn for a time when everyone knew the words to "abide with me" and bloody well sang them.

('Abide with me' is a famous hymn which is sung before every Cup Final. People only know the first few lines "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide etc etc ..." I recently found the entire hymn published in a book. It's a tragically depressing hymn about death! Still, can you even begin to imagine a Godsong being sung prior to the Superbowl or a World series game? Yet here I am, an old fashioned church & state liberal lamenting the fact that the modern generation has forgotten the words to this sturdy old hymn).

That's probably why I love the cup more than any other tournament. It's the connection between the past and the now. I've watched every cup final since 1981 bar 1988 when I had to work the afternoon shift in Merv's hot bread kitchen in Wymondham and 2003 when I was unable to get the telly to work here in New York. (I then set to thinking about how many football games I have ever watched, don't try this, it hurts!)
I actually went to the cup final in 1987 and was lucky enough to be stood at the Coventry end as they beat Spurs 3-2. I still regard Cup Final day as the holiest day of the year.
The cup has given me memories and myth that fuels my passion for the game. In my lifetime alone I can recall Ricky Villa's goal against Manchester City in '81, Chas n' Dave making fantastic cup final songs for the cup-tastic Spurs team of 81 &82. Brighton so nearly upsetting Manchester United in '83 and of course, Coventry beating Spurs and then, a year later Wimbledon beating one of the greatest sides of the modern era, the 1988 Liverpool. I could go on.
Even before my time there is the myth. The myth handed down to me by the older generation, Bert Trautmann's neck, Charlie George's goal and of course our glorious if ultimately doomed 1959 cup run.

(My Dad, who was there, is working on his account of the 1959 Cup Run. Although lots of things have been published about it there exists no decent website. What really freaks me out is that some of the '59 generation are actually starting to die. Their story must be told).

So you see, I love the FA Cup. Trouble is, she just doesn't seem to love me. You would think that with all the words written in respect of the egalitarian nature of the competiton that it would be right up our street. I must admit that Exeter's exploits at Old Trafford this afternoon ended any sorrow I felt about our exit at Upton Park.
It's just one of those little things that makes me quietly proud to be English.
I suppose it's just like so many other things, take politics for example. The US constitution gives you the impression that anyone born a citizen of the United States can become President. Yet it's always a millionaire middle class white guy who gets the job.
Same thing with the FA Cup.
In theory anyone, as long as they are members of the Football Association can enter the tournament and, with luck, skill and judgement lift the famous trophy in May. Then Marlon Harewood pops up in the 81st minute and messes up everything."

(The article in it's original form can still be read at NYCanaries.com , link at right.)

1 comment:

Mondale said...

I guess this is what happens when you lift something from another time and place in order to maintain a fluent blog. It get's infected by Serbo-Croat weirdness and strange letters and symbols.
Just think of it as a cute little reading test.