The FA Cup Final

No occasion in football is better positioned to cling on to clichés of decades past, as well as developing the clichés of the future, than than the FA Cup Final.

Saturday, 3pm, is the kick-off for the game, but the tried and tested formula of FA Cup Final coverage has begun way, way before then.

The Angle... may not be able to predict the first goalscorer, correct score or even the result. However, there are a whole raft of incidents that are absolutely guaranteed to occur on the big day itself. Fortunately, The Angle... is far better placed to comment on this, as we bring you:

The Ultimate Guide To The Magic of The Cup, Cup Final Stuff That's Definitely Gonna Happen Because It Always Does, and Stuff That Will Happen Because It's The New Wembley.

The Stadium

A good proportion of the coverage will be devoted to the fact that this is the "New Wembley", and that we are to witness the first final there since it was redeveloped - which seems like 400 years ago.

Prepare to see footage of a lone policeman on the white horse controlling the crowd at the first Wembley final in 1923 between West Ham and Bolton. There will be a talking head interview with a very old man who was at that first final as a boy, describing pretty much what we all know - that a policeman on a white horse controlled the crowd and the game went ahead. Of course, there will be no proof that this man was at the game - it could quite easily be the cameraman's grandfather. Alternatively, perhaps the interviewee has to pass a standard BBC Authentication Test:

  1. Are you over 90 years old?
  2. Have you ever worn a flat cap to a football match?
  3. Do you know what a horse looks like?

The fawning over the stadium (I anticipate the word "magnificent" will be used approxinmately 750 times over the course of the day). If you cast your mind back to the beginning of the season, a time, incredible as it may seem, when there was no such thing as The Angle of Post and Bar, Arsenal's Emirates Stadium opened. Few will forget the over-the-top praise this shiny new stadium received. Into September, and they were still at it - Jamie Redknapp arriving especially early so he could do his Goals on Sunday link, live from the stadium, a good five hours before kick off.

If you cringed at that, then I suggest you prepare for that level of praise multiplied by one thousand, bearing the following in mind:

1. The stadium is 50% bigger than The Emirates

2. It's the National Stadium so any pundit's reservations about Arsenal can be truly put to one side.

3. It's Cup Final Day.

I am also predicting the most patronising "thankyou" imaginable towards Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. I am especially thinking of Richard Keys asking one of his special brand of platitude-filled-cringe-inducing questions, along the lines of "No disrespect to Cardiff, who put a magnificent show on by the way - we're thankful for you putting us up for seven long years - but aren't we all glad it's back here, Jamie?"

The first pre-match question to every single person interviewed will be "What do you think of the stadium?". Every reply will be:


The Build-Up

Strangely, this year the BBC and Sky have swapped roles, with the BBC's coverage starting 3 hours and 10 minutes before kick off. Sky, unusually, have decided to start the build up from 2pm - despite what they say, Blackpool v Oldham Athletic in the League One Play-off semi-final does not constitute a Cup Final build-up!

Neither will the BBC have the luxury of adverts to help them out, so they will be really stringing out the features in their pre-game fare, which may include conveniently bumping into two television personalites who happen to support either side (We at the The Angle... bet a fiver that James Nesbitt will get his mug on the box at some point.), and asking them if they've ever "played a bit".

Lineker and Hansen will have little digs at each other about what happened in the 1986 final and Shearer will self-indulgently reveal (almost word for word) "By rights I should hate this competition, having lost two finals, but there's something special about it and I still love it."

Following this will be a recollection of when the two teams met each other in the 1994 final, in which Gavin Peacock and Gary Pallister will be on hand to talk us through what happened.

There will be an interview with a foreign player from each side where they will be duty-bound to say that they "grew up watching this game" and that they "always dreamed of playing at Wembley in the FA Cup Final", as if the failure to say this means that stupid Johnny Foreigner fails to understand the concept of a Cup Final and won't try as hard, and defeat will be their own, silly-foreigner-don't-you-understand-the-magic-of-the-cup, fault.

No FA Cup Final build-up will be complete without following the teams from their hotels to the ground. I doubt whether Wimbledon's journey will ever be beaten - with the BBC actually on the coach playing the tape of when Dennis Wise was 11, appearing on Record Breakers, telling Roy Castle he wanted to win the FA Cup.

I must warn you that, on Sky, when Manchester United arrive, Richard Keys will look up, possibly interrupting one of Jamie Redknapp's monologues about Frank Lampard doing it "week in, week out" and say "Sorry, Jamie - The Champions are here..." Please try not to smash your television into smithereens.

The newspapers have had an easy time of it from The Angle... since its inception in January (don’t worry, we have the whole summer to cover that particular shower). However, come cup final week, and with hardly anything else to write about, they focus entirely on the two teams – even if this does include a fourteen-page special on the registration of Mourinho’s dog.

As a final throw of the dice, the sports sections will try to predict the outcome of the game by assuming the probable line-ups of the teams, marking each player out of ten and then adding the scores up to see which team is stronger (and therefore will obviously win). Not a method favoured by bookmakers, but there you are. There are a number of flaws with this approach. The media want to build this up as a close game, rather than the walkover it has been it recent years, and so contrive to make the scores as close as possible, without arousing the suspicion of the readership that this is what they are doing.

You can easily spot where this has been applied, as the odd player will be given a half-mark up or down to keep it tight overall. For example, Cech will be given 9/10 and Van Der Sar will receive 8.5/10. All innocent to the lay person, but to the trained eye that extra half-mark for Van Der Sar is clear evidence of a newspaper man artificially massaging the scores to ensure a close finish. It's massively infuriating, and surely defeats the whole point of the feature in the first place.

The Game

For those of us with digital TV, the dilemma arises of which channel to watch it on. Is it the Super Sunday pairing of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray or the more traditional duo of John Motson and professional irritant Mark Lawrenson?

I will personally go for the Tyler/Gray match day commentary team, but with half time analysis from the BBC.

Andy Gray’s co-commentary in the cup final is preferable to Lawrenson’s cynical and embarrassingly poor quips. As someone puts it over from 8 yards, the Gray reflexes kick in as he says “What a chance, Martin. You won’t get a better chance than that to be a hero in the Cup Final, son”. This, of course, in addition to his usual glee when a striker “gambles”.

At half time, a 15-minute treatise on how brilliant Michael Carrick is, and how Drogba is the complete player because he’s able to head a corner away at the near post. Half-time analysis on the BBC can be reduced to a simple theory:

Exciting 1st half: They will talk about goals and chances

Tight, Intriguing (e.g. Boring) 1st Half: They will talk about "half-chances" and "openings". Lineker, for example will half-heartedly attempt to stoke the analytical fire with "So....Drogba had a chance right at the end of that first half, didn't he? Well, more of a half-chance, really."

Back to the game and the neutral will be hoping for a one-goal deficit as the final minutes approach, just so we can see a goalkeeper in his opponent’s penalty area. This wreaks havoc at the best of times, so who knows what panic will be induced if this occurs on Saturday?

Once the trophy has been won, the losers will walk up the 107 steps (used to be 39, of course, but someone will fill you in on this on Saturday) walk past the trophy and down again whilst the players are interviewed on the pitch with Geoff Shreeves, hoping that Wayne Rooney doesn’t swear. On average, Geoff Shreeves manages to fit in about 3 questions before he moves on to his next victim. Working valiantly within such limitations, Shreeves covers all bases with his incisive interrogations:

Question 1: How does it feel to have the FA Cup?

Question 2: Can you describe how it feels to have that medal around your neck?

Question 3: Can you put into words how it feels to have won today?

In the near future, footballers will realise they can apply their standard three superlatives ("unbelievable", "amazing" and "fantastic") to each of these questions, helping Shreeves fool the (actually rather uninterested) nation that he has actually asked three different questions.

The winning captain finally lifts the trophy, hopefully wearing a hat given to him by a fan and the swearathon can begin. My favourite example being in 1988, with Dennis Wise swearing his head off in front of a slightly embarrassed Princess Diana.

Eventually, after the third-choice goalkeeper has spent a disproportionate amount of time parading the trophy by himself, comes the most crushing inevitability of them all - who will be the first to put the lid on their head?

After this, the Wembley PA guy will interfere, playing Rockin’ All Over the World by Status Quo at 4000 decibels, as if celebrating winning the FA Cup needs a helping hand.

Hopefully we will be spared the lap of honour with the kids.