This is the 11th in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum.
Every day, having started on May 1st 2020, a new set of exclusive FA Cup memories are being published via this FACupFactfile blog, and today is the turn of a broadcaster for BBC Sport and Sky Sports.
SERIES ONE, No. 11
Connection to the world of Football: Broadcaster for BBC Sport and Sky Sports
Eilidh is not only a football match reporter but is also the main presenter for BBC’s golf coverage amongst other roles.
First memory of the FA Cup: Eilidh says, “Growing up in Scotland, English football wasn’t as visible as it is now on the TV but the FA Cup final was always one that I remember watching. I don’t have an English team that I support, I never have, but my brother always loved Man Utd so one of my earliest memories would probably be the final between Liverpool and Utd in 96. I can remember us sitting watching it. I think I wanted Liverpool to win just to annoy him, but I’m pretty sure I celebrated that Cantona goal with him. Such a sweet strike. And he was my brothers favourite, he wore his collar up just to be like Eric!”
The 1996 FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Liverpool wasn’t the greatest Final of all time by any stretch of the imagination, but you never forget your first FA Cup Final whatever the quality of the game.
That win for Manchester United meant that they became the first club to lift the FA Cup nine times and cemented their place as, at the time, the best FA Cup club of all time.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Eilidh says, “One of my first ever FA Cup matches to work on, if not my first, was in the First Round proper in 2014 at Gosport Borough. Whether it’s the FA Cup or the Scottish Cup, one of my favourite things is going to the lower league clubs and feeling that magic that only the Cup brings. They were playing Colchester United and it was the first time I’d done in-vision match updates. I was pitchside, could barely see a thing and it finished 3-6. Absolutely brilliant Cup entertainment with goals flying in when I was on air talking about the previous goal. Chaos! But so much fun.
I was in a similar position at The Den as a last minute goal knocked Premier League champions Leicester out resulting in a massive pitch invasion and me being physically dragged up the tunnel by my floor manager whilst trying to do my full time match report, that was a different kind of chaos!
I’ve been very lucky, I have some great FA Cup memories and have been given some amazing opportunities to work in the competition. Finals are always incredibly special in their own right.”
It’s wonderful to read that one of Eilidh’s favourite FA Cup memories involves a club outside of the Premier League and the Football League. There is a passion for the competition within non-league clubs unsurpassed by those further up the pyramid. Non-League club owners, board members, managers, coaches, players, volunteers and fans have a special affiliation with the competition, and not just because of the financial benefits a Cup run can bring.
Being able to say that you were involved in (and some can say scored in) the same competition as Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguerra in something that lives with those non-league club affiliated people forever. And that passion is magnified when a Non-League club is drawn at home to a League club, as witnessed by the terrific scenes at Gosport Borough.
Last FA Cup match attended: Eilidh says, “It was one of my last working days before the pandemic hit. I was at Hillsborough, my first ever visit, for Sheffield Wednesday v Man City. Not a great game it has to be said and just the one goal in it despite City being dominant throughout. The highlight for me though as a Scot was an outrageous piece of skill by Barry Bannan including the cheekiest of nutmegs against Bernardo Silva. Barry El Banhio….”
A very personal last memory of the FA Cup for Eilidh, one which I’m sure will be remembered well beyond the resumption of football, and not just because it was the last one seen before football was abruptly brought to a halt.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Eilidh says, “I feel the great competition may be over for this season. I find it very difficult to see how the season can be completed including cup competitions. And I also feel that a Cup Final is nothing without fans. The colour, the occasion, the tension that 90 minutes decides everything is what makes Cup football so special.
Longer term, I would love to see the competition take the relevance in the season that it did in years gone by. There’s nothing more frustrating than to be broadcasting on a game where the teams have made 10 changes each. I understand it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. My fear is that, with the commercial development of the game, we lose some of its romanticism.
I’ve always wondered if my view comes from supporting a smaller team, one whose only chance of silverware is in the cup. My greatest moment supporting St Johnstone came on the 17th May 2014, winning our first ever major trophy in the Scottish Cup final. But then I’m never going to see my team win the top flight or compete in the Champions League. I think its why I enjoy the earlier rounds so much, that magic is still there.
Don’t get me wrong, the final is always special, when it gets to Wembley its all about winning. I just hope we can find a way to ensure the competition maintains its standing amongst footballs other great competitions.”
Some very poignant comments about the FA Cup made by Eilidh. The ‘Cup Final is nothing without fan’s can also translate to ‘Football is nothing without fans’. It’s fantastic to see the warmth Eilidh as for the competition, one that is magnified when remembering her own club’s exploits and successes in the equivalent Scottish FA Cup.
The majority of fans support football clubs who win trophies once in a blue moon. But when it comes around, as it did for St Johnstone (and for example, for Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup), the joy of the occasion and the success is unbridled. And it’s easy to understand why the ‘Magic of the Cup’ exists for fans of lower level clubs, especially those that won’t even achieve one FA Cup triumph, when hope of a great Cup run, or causing a mighty upset, or getting one over your local rivals (especially if they are a bigger club) can create off-the-scale levels of anticipatory excitement.
I’d like to extend my greatest thanks to Eilidh for sharing her personal FA Cup memories. Hopefully we’ll see her again ‘managing the chaos’ in a 1st Round FA Cup match in the near future.
No. 12 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a former Kent based local radio non-league match reporter and massive Margate FC fan, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/fa-cup-memories-series-112-jeremy-jacobs/
No. 10 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a photographer, writer, and publisher specialising in non-League and amateur football, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/fa-cup-memories-series-110-david-bauckham/
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.