It's the FA Cup final, so let's get Dion Dublin to eat a steak the size of a small baby

VIEW FROM THE SOFA: Saturday Kitchen, BBC 1

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The Independent Online

Nothing says FA Cup final build-up like Dion Dublin revealing how much he hates clams. Cup fever? Pass the paracetamol.

It was a big day for the former Aston Villa striker on Saturday, as he was the guest in Saturday Kitchen, the long-running  mid-morning weekend staple for those with no kids, before sitting in as part of the punditry team for the match itself.

The clam conversation came up because guests on Saturday Kitchen have to tell the host, James Martin, which is their personal food heaven and hell. While “anything shellfishy” was Dublin’s idea of Hades, his ultimate dish was “ummm, meat – I love meat”. So Martin came up with a choice of a mussel, clam and sea herb stew and a two-kilogram (that’s over a quarter of a stone, in old money) T-bone steak for the viewers to decide which the ex-striker would have to eat at the end of the show.

But here’s the thing: Saturday Kitchen was billed as part of the Beeb’s all-day build-up to the final. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that none of it had anything to do with the match, except for the Cup itself sitting incongruously on a shelf and Martin saying repeatedly that the competition is “over 100 years old and anybody can have a go in it”.

It’s one thing trumpeting to viewers that they have gone back to the old days of build-up from breakfast, but it is something else entirely to fob them off with cooking and game shows (a special edition of Pointless, featuring BBC pundits as the contestants, was another offering later in the afternoon) as part of the preamble to the big match.

One guest chef, Sabrina Ghayour, with her “FA Cup finger food feast” attempted to shoehorn in some sporting interest by persisting with the fallacy that fans are desperate to use up their stocks of giant prawns, bulgur wheat and preserved lemons to whip up something to throw on the barbecue and munch in front of the telly to soak up the prosecco and craft beer while the action takes place at Wembley.

Note to foodie producers: nobody makes this stuff before a football match. Nobody. No matter how urbane fans may be, the most out-there specimen you’re likely to get as part of an FA Cup final feast is a piece of burnt Cypriot squeaky cheese to go with a mountain of sausages that have been brutally barbecued in a semi-drunken haze.

Dublin admitted his cooking skills went as far as being “good at burning” but was a natural in front of the camera, when quizzed by Martin, over a bout of haddock cooking (again – who is going to cook this as an FA Cup final lunch?), on his second career, as a presenter on Homes Under the Hammer. Then, as soon as the FA Cup was mentioned, he slipped into pundit mode, with his “good on paper” and “sneaky chance” phrases.

Four hours later he was installed at Wembley and saying the same things, albeit with a Villa-coloured suit-and-tie combo and a stomach no doubt full of steak, onion and Aussie Merlot, the viewers having voted for his heaven.

His foray into the kitchen wasn’t mentioned by the Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker – nor was his sheer delight earlier in the day at having the chance to tuck into a piece of meat the weight of a newborn baby (“I’ve never seen one that size before,” he said). It was probably for the best. After all, on FA Cup final day, who wants to hear about how to cook a massive slab of cow?

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