Robin Scott-Elliot: The greatest cup competition in the world – it takes up half of the weekend
The FA Cup final, ITV 1/ESPN
It's David Bernstein I feel sorry for. After the week he'd had, a Saturday morning lie-in would have been something to savour. Instead he had to get up at the crack of dawn to let Rebecca Lowe, Jason McAteer, Pat Nevin, Craig Burley and all into Wembley. "Where in just over nine hours' time..." said Lowe, as part of her introduction to ESPN's exhaustive and exhausting coverage of the FA Cup final. This was a job for a workaholic midfielder rather than the prima donna striker, which is perhaps why Robbie Mustoe was included.
Mustoe, with his easy self-deprecation, proved a jolly part of one part of the 12 hours dedicated to the third-most important game of the weekend. ESPN gave us breakfast and brunch and then unsurprisingly skipped lunch and went straight to the build-up to the match itself. It did not start promisingly, with Robbie Savage appearing within the first minute and somebody else enthusing about a "stunning view of Wembley Way". "There's loads to cram in before kick-off," promised Lowe.
That cramming turned out to be every detail imaginable. "What will the players be doing now?" Pat Nevin was asked. "Sleeping," answered Nevin. At one point there was a discussion as to which team would be better suited if it rained. By the time ITV arrived – Bernstein, now having swapped tartan dressing gown for his matchday suit, let them in just after lunchtime – there cannot have been a former Liverpool or Chelsea player left unbothered.
The theme of this being the greatest cup competition etc, etc, was stuck to religiously and well done to Juan Mata for coming up with another reason why the FA Cup is the greatest etc, etc. It's because it's played on the weekend. The Spanish Cup is midweek and so is inferior, suggested Mata.
The best film in the build-up was on ITV, a mini-biopic of Luis Suarez. The reporter Ned Boulting went to Gronigen and Amsterdam to explore the making of the man, speaking to former managers and coaches. The manager of Gronigen, Ron Jans, gave a knowing grin when asked about Suarez's less savoury side. As you can see from the no-nonsense brevity of his name this was not a man to waste letters when a look would do. Next up was Ajax's Herman Pinkster, who is mentioned only for possessing my new favourite name in football.
Suarez is a footballing version of Tortuous Convolvulus – a divisive and devious Roman agent for those unfamiliar with Asterix, the Didier Deschamps of his day. Suarez polarises opinion and the divide often seems to be between footballer and football watcher. "You're not going to win anything with angels," growled Roy Keane (Roy's on safer ground there than Alan Hansen was with kids, I feel).
"With creative people... there's that little bit of madness," explained Gareth Southgate before stressing he was not creative in anyway whatsoever, having been a defender.
During the final, Suarez's snarling berating of the assistant as Liverpool claimed Andy Carroll's header had crossed the line deserves to be another tick in the case against column, along with the Evra incident, the biting and so on. It will not be the last.
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