Well we finally got the FA Cup Final back at new Wembley. Was it worth waiting 7 years for yesterday’s experience? I have to say it all felt a bit of a let down to me. I’ll come on to the football match itself in a second. The new stadium looked brilliant – I was privileged to get a good look at the building at several stages during its construction. It was massively impressive even in an incomplete state and I was truly disappointed not to be actually there to see the place for myself up close and personal at its first major event. But it did look superb on TV. However there were several negative aspects that kept cropping up throughout the day which took the shine off the event for me (apart from the result).
Firstly, the pitch. It just didn’t look to be up to the task. We’ve got used to crap pitches at the Millenium Stadium but they’re all temporary packaged efforts and are bound to be imperfect. But this one is permanent and ought to have been bedded in by now you’d have thought. It looked like a pudding to play on and I’m sure that was one of the reasons for the crap level of football we saw. I just hope the pitch gets time now to bed in properly to ensure that the new Wembley lawn doesn’t develop a poor reputation as a playing surface like its predecessor did. You sense though that the FA will be desperate to get its event programme in full swing sooner rather than late to start paying off that huge debt. The state of the pitch will be the last thing on their minds.
Secondly, although the Stadium is now finished (sort of) everyone was making reference to the fact that the surrounding area remains a huge building site. Just how long will it be before the whole Wembley complex is renovated do you think? Maybe 2012?
Thirdly, I hear that whilst the improvements to the new station are excellent, the overall transport infrastructure in the area remains hopelessly inadequate. It always was a pig to get to and from but at least you could park there before. I don’t think there’s a car park on site now and residential parking zones are in force completely around the place now. Having spent three quarters of a £Billion on the venue you’d have thought that more money could and should have been spent on facilitating transport access. We always seem to get this wrong in this country. Getting to and from Twickenham is no easier than it ever was – in fact it’s worse. And the Emirates might as well be in Aberystwyth -it’s almost as hard to get to the place.
Fourthly, it’s impossible to pick up a paper today without seeing references to the costs of everything at the stadium. To be honest all major events charge outrageously for food and drink these days but I have to say that £10 for a programme is a bit opportunistic. I bet you there were families of 4 buying 1 prog @ £10 rather than 4 at £5 yesterday. So poss a faux pas? They reckon the overall takings yesterday (including corporate hospitality commitments) topped £10m. Sign of the times that the financial story of the day dominates over the sporting one?
Fifthly, what f**king colour were Kolou’s boots? I’d like to think they were a tangerine homage to the Seasiders’ wonderful win earlier in the day but, call me a cynic, I’m not convinced he’s a disciple of NW footballing tradition. So he must be a colourful character then, like the manager… or a p***ck. Let’s not be churlish, Alan Ball did the same thing in his white boots many years ago. But AB had played for the ‘Pool and oh yeh, was the man of the match in a World Cup final at the age of, what, 20? He could have played in leopardskin for me and still have been applauded for it. Aaahh….But Kolou? P***ck.
Sixthly, I was watching the match at my glorious mum-in-law’s with my lovely wife. They are women I’d die for but no blokes, no booze and it’s…well.. just not the same is it? If you can’t argue tactical nuances without any alcohol it’s challenging. And football’s the beautiful game. Enough said?
Finally, I’m not sure all that pre-match activity worked terribly well are you? The two opera divas were, well, rubbish. Lesley Garret’s OK but a bit of a pain with all that honest t’yorkshireness. She hasn’t lived there since she was 3 has she? At least she knew the words of Abide With Me. But Sarah Brightman looked and sounded painfully under-prepared. It’s a crap tradition to sing such a dirge-ful song in my view (like the nat. anthem) but if you’re going to do it, for christ’s sake get someone to do it who can get the audience to listen/take part/be inspired. Then there was that chat between Des and the 3 Legends which was just embarrassing. Inviting Bob Geldoff to wish his granny Fifi happy birthday was not very legendary, just rubbish. And what was all that Superbowl nonsense with the walk on of the other Legends? Apparently the FA are upset that Mike Summerbee et al were booed by the Man U fans – oh really? What a huge shock that must have been. Badly thought through you FA officials. Get some frigging fans involved next time to plan this sort of activity. And don’t get me started on Prince William’s timid little speech, and the fawning forelock-tugging Beswick. Like he has a forelock, or any locks.
But that statue of Bobby Moore is just sublime. 20 out of 10 for getting it just right FA. You have created one of the most iconic meeting points in the world’s greatest city, in front of a world class stadium.
And so to the football. What a disappointment to see the two best teams in the Premiership currently, reduced to Div 2 standards by tiredness, a poor pitch and season-long burnout. You all saw it so no need for me to comment on the football itself except that I thought Rooney was within inches of scoring between 1-3 stunning goals, Paul Scholes was at his brilliant best at the passing game and that ball was over the line. You sense that Man U peaked around the time of the glorious matches against Roma and Everton and remain shell-shocked from the Milan defeat. Good job the season’s end came when it did. Chelsea remain ruthlessly efficient but I just don’t enjoy their brand of football. Is it because they remind me so much of the Leeds team of the 70’s?
At game’s end, Mourinho was just embarrassing to watch wasn’t he? He’s interesting but becoming more self-absorbed all the time. Could he grab more camera attention if he tried? Humility would look good on him if only he could find it in the shop. Jose, do yourself a favour mate and have a few mateus roses with Steve Coppell or Dario Gradi.
At least my other team, Blackpool, won yesterday – what a strange day to play a play-off game. Who thought of that? In this case probably not the bloody FA – just those other Nobel prize winners at the Football League. We are not talking about joined-up thinking are we? Caborn where are you when it matters – probably in one of those v expensive boxes (and I bet you didn’t pay for the ticket)…