I am one of those people who romantices about the FA Cup, about what it stands for and how it is something to be cherished and nurtured.
But even for someone like me, who wants to see the competition thrive and continue its rich tradition despite the commercial trappings of the modern game, I will never enjoy the latter stages of the competition as long as the semi-finals are played at Wembley.
The road to Wembley. That phrase used to mean something. It was where dreams were made and history written. To play their was the reward for being the final two gladiators left in battle.
It’s been seven years since the FA decided they find another use for the hallowed Wembley turf other than simply England friendlies against Moldova and Coldplay concerts, and the FA Cup finals have been played their ever since.
I hate it. There has been the odd year in years past where the semi-finals have been held at Wembley but, in my eyes, the battles between the last four should be had somewhere else. What’s wrong with Old Trafford, Villa Park or the Millennium Stadium.
Wembley should be part of the appeal. When Chesterfield almost made it to the FA Cup final back in 1997, part of what made their story was that the nation was willing them to beat Middlesbrough at Old Trafford so that they could have their day in the sun at Wembley.
It’s supposed to be an occasion, something which comes round but once a year. But watching the weekend’s coverage made me feel like I had already watched two cup finals. I’ve now no appetite to watch Arsenal and Aston Villa battle it out on the same pitch on May 30. It’s Groundhog Day.
I do believe that the decision to hold the finals there is myopic. The competition, as much as it pains me to admit it, is not what it once was.
There is no sponsorship of the competition this season. David Brent must have been heading up the FA’s sales department for there to be no takers this season, especially when you consider that Countdown has a sponsor for it’s TV slot.
But the cheapening of the competition hasn’t helped matters. The final should be at Wembley, regardless of whether the FA feel they need to maximise the functionality of Wembley Stadium.
There is no ‘grand final’ anymore. Merely a repeat of something we have seen a month previous. A crying shame for the competition.