This is the seventh in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum.
Every day from May 1st, 2020, a new set of FA Cup memories will be published via this FACupFactfile blog and today is the turn of the Chief Football Reporter at talkSport and an ITV match commentator.
SERIES ONE, No. 7
Connection to the world of Football: Chief Football Commentator at talkSPORT and Commentator ITV sport
Sam Matterface at the Mic (in Jacket)
First memory of the FA Cup: Sam says, “Crowding round my friend Barry’s TV in Dartford to watch the FA Cup Final of 1987, thinking Spurs would win, especially when Clive Allen scored after two minutes, only to witness a major upset. Great game with tremendous goals, Houchen, Bennett, Allen…. wonderful hot sunny day. Everything the FA Cup should be.”
It was a terrific FA Cup Final, and a wonderful upset. As a Leeds United fan I could only watch on and wonder ‘what could have been?’ Spurs had never lost any of their seven FA Cup Finals before, and this match was seen as a formality, especially as the furthest Coventry City had ever progressed in the competition was the Quarter Finals.
Coventry City became the 41st different club to lift the FA Cup and denied Spurs a record setting eighth victory in the process. The game was won in extra time by an unfortunate Gary Mabbutt own goal, and bizarrely, not a single player was booked across the whole 120 minutes!
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Sam says, “Chelsea winning it in 1997. Di Matteo’s goal after 43 seconds. Chelsea had won nothing in my lifetime and were for much of my childhood in terrible shape. But we had a lot of young lads come through at once and a sprinkling of older and foreign talent and they were a great team to watch.”
Many clubs go through long periods without winning any silverware, and this number has increased as the Premier League has become more and more a battle of the top six. It means the FA Cup has a potential to end a barren spell, and when it finally delivers the emotions of achieving success at last can stay with fans forever as their favourite moment even when, as in Chelsea’s case, much greater success has come its way.
Di Matteo’s early goal was, at the time, the quickest ever FA Cup Final goal at Wembley (and the second quickest ever), now usurped by Louis Saha for Everton in 2009 against Chelsea.
Despite this being only Chelsea’s second ever FA Cup triumph, the last 23 years has seen the Blues lift the Trophy a further six times, with only Arsenal and Manchester United now having done so more often.
Last FA Cup match attended: Tottenham vs Norwich R5 in March just before lockdown, Norwich won on pens.
Sam says, “Key take away was how cautious Spurs were after scoring and getting ahead, and how they regressed and looked so nervy towards the end. Norwich never gave up and once it went to penalties there was only ever one result. Tim Krul wasn’t brought on at a World Cup because he was bad at saving spot kicks was he!!!? The aftermath was weird because I think we felt lockdown or something was coming and Eric Dier going into the crowd clouded what was a great night for Norwich in a tough season.”
It was an incredible night for Norwich City fans, a club starved of silverware throughout most of their existence, now into the last eight of the FA Cup with a home tie to come. Their fans must have been dreaming that their own barren spell was coming to an end. Should this season be over, it would be a cruel fate for the Canaries.
Eric Dier’s actions that night seem so inconsequential in light of the worldwide pandemic, but scenes like that had not been seen since the infamous Eric Cantona Kung-Fu kick. Of course, at the time, it was front page as well as back page news. It’ll be sad if that is what this particular FA Cup match is remembered for, but not as sad if it turns out to be one of the last FA Cup games of the season.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Sam says, “The FA Cup is, was and always will be a major part of football in this country and we have to ensure it is protected. I think extra time should be scrapped. I think there should be a scheme to reduce replays but not at the expense of the lower league clubs who will need the money more than ever.
Football has traditions, and those traditions should be respected. The FA Cup Final is the day the top flight season closes, and the annual 3rd round splurge of fixtures is a super date to have in the diary. A lot is made that other countries’ leagues don’t care about their cups, well we should cherish the fact that we do. It makes football and glory more accessible to others than just the top four!”
I absolutely love Sam’s passion for the FA Cup here. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he proposes, but I wholeheartedly agree that it is very important that the FA Cup remains a key competition in the English domestic programme. It shouldn’t be compared to how Cup competitions are viewed in other countries. Its roots come from a very different place.
The FA Cup celebrates its 150th anniversary very soon, something other competitions will have to wait a long time to do. It’s that connectivity with the very foundations of football which means the FA Cup should be cherished, not in a condescending way, but as a trophy worth winning simply for the prestige of doing so.
Many, many thanks to Sam for taking the time to provide his wonderful personal recollections of the FA Cup. Hopefully, we’ll here more of Sam commentating on FA Cup matches as ITV come on board to show live games in the near future.
No. 8 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections of a well-known former FIFA, Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Final Referee, can be found on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/08/fa-cup-memories-series-18-keith-hackett/
No. 6 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a F365 columnist for 20 years and writer of football books, can be found on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/06/fa-cup-memories-series-16-john-nicholson/
You can read this exclusive FA Cup Memories series from where it all started with BBC 5 Live Commentator John Murray by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/fa-cup-memories-series-11-john-murray/
Follow @FACupFactfile on Twitter for news of when future memories are published.