The romance of the cup. It’s an old cliché which had become tired and worn with the riches that the Premier League offers. Money makes it harder for lower division or non-league teams to have the same impact on football heritage as the likes of Colchester United, Wimbledon, Leatherhead or Blyth Spartans.
It still happens. Bradford and to a lesser extent, Middlesbrough, dumped Chelsea and Manchester City out of the FA Cup. The former reached a League Cup final, beating Arsenal en route. The dreams still leave, they are just harder to come by.
That’s why this season has been so refreshing. Even though Leicester City are a wealthy club with ‘sugar daddy’ backers, they have taken the Premier League by storm and beaten all-comers. All except Arsenal that is, rather bizarrely.
Nonetheless, it’s a modern-day romance. More Posh ‘n’ Becks than Romeo and Juliet but shaking up the complacency which has seized English football in its’ icy grasp. It will be a pity if Norwich City don’t avoid the drop because all three promoted clubs staying up would shake the Premier League up, just as the new money threatens to widen the gap between the top flight and the Football League.
Bournemouth’s survival when many pundits predicted them to be relegated, is one of the genuine successes of the season. Eddie Howe, a young coach in the right place at the right time, has seen his club play what many believe to be the right kind of football: a fluent passing game. They learned quickly in the top flight and hopefully will stay for many seasons to come.
Away from the Premier League, the FA Cup has given us a repeat of the 1990 final. Manchester United take on Crystal Palace with many hoping that this time it goes the south Londoners way. The Eagles league form took a massive dip in 2016 but they plugged away in the cup beating four Premier League teams, including Tottenham, along with the way.
Can they do the almost unbelievable? Alan Pardew has good reason to remember 1990 with some fondness, scoring in the 4-3 semi-final win over Liverpool that season. Can he inspire his charges to greater glory? Perhaps – recent cup finals have seen Arsenal dispose of the underdogs but Wigan’s victory in 2013 offers hope for the future.
For the Mansion Group, who are in charge of Slotsheaven.com, as sponsors of both Bournemouth and Crystal Palace it is a great time to be associated with the clubs. Leicester’s tie-in with King Power is slightly different as they own the club but nonetheless, marketing positive football stories is a very powerful tool in the sponsors’ armoury.
I’m sure Emirates had hopes of the same with Arsenal, on the back of consecutive FA Cup triumphs and what would have been a favourable route to the final. It wasn’t to be, coinciding with the club falling away in the Premier League to cap a miserable couple of months.
Football is a game of dreams, from young children on the fields of England every weekend through to supporters finding their voices in the stands. More often than not, those hopes are shattered but it doesn’t stop us coming back for more; it doesn’t stop the game evolving.
We might not see one of the most successful clubs in the land held on their home turf by a non-league team any more but that doesn’t stop football producing romantic moments at the most unexpected of times.
It’s all relative and as football changes, we have to find a source for inspiration from different places nowadays. So long as they keep coming in whatever shape or form, the game will remain in rude health.