Semi Final weekend approaches. It’s a shame Fulham aren’t in there because they deserve it this year and, Villa aside, the remainder leave a stench the FA Cup shouldn’t have to cover its nose to avoid. I’m sorry Pompey, rubber-necking is fine but I’ve seen enough of this pile up now and Fulham have already warmed cockles by trouncing the Old Lady, so they have credit. And then there’s Chelsea and Spurs. *shakes head*
Semi final weekend is a weekend not remembered with either clarity or affection. It is too late for there to be any real minnows left for proper giant killings and they don’t have the glamour of the final, even when held at Wembley. There is also the pragmatism these days that goes with being one game from Wembley, ‘don’t blow it’, ‘don’t take any risks’. This leads to duller games. 2008 was interesting only because of the four unfashionable remnants at SF stage but the fayre was dire. Last year was, though, probably a low point in semi final history when a lacklustre Chelsea scraped past a woeful Arsenal and Everton and Man Utd provided a handy post-prandial sleeping pill on a dull spring Sunday.
The last 10 years worth of semi-finals has seen a perhaps surprising number of interlopers, even if the list of eventual winners hasn’t. Mind you, the top 4 run into each other at some point after round four so it’s maybe not a surprise. Arsenal have managed 6 of the last 10 semis, Chelsea 5 and United 4 but the remainder of semi-finalists have been diverse. From Wycombe Wanderers to Barnsley via two semi final appearances for Watford there have been a fair few non-Premier teams flirting with the Cup. However, with perhaps one or two unlucky exceptions they have known their place and scuttled back off under the floorboards.
But when was the last good semi? In a scientific study among friends and on several forums we ascertained that the last genuinely good semi finals were Middesborough v Chesterfield in 1997 and Arsenal v Man Utd in 1999. In the former, there was the infamous Jon Howard goal that never was and the edge of the seat, end-to-end play was exhausting. The latter featured a belter of a goal from Beckham, disallowed goals, a missed penalty, Roy Keane being sent off and THAT Giggs goal. One might even argue that Giggs killed the FA Cup semi final with that goal because almost nothing has happened since.
So, what does the realfacup do now? We watch the semis and desperately hope for a monster game. When that doesn’t happen we stick the boot in. Yes, that is negative but, look, Chelsea v Spurs in the final, how fucking interesting. Routine 2-0 silverware raid for the anti-football club from West London and we have to wait until August until the good shit starts again. What’s to like about that? Fingers crossed for the Villa.
*Our memory is notoriously and collectively bad, if you remember a decent SF over the last 10 years, please let us know below.