|Football Bettor's Survey|
FA Cup Glory Is The Prize At Stake On Saturday
This year’s FA Cup Final may lack one of the big four but in some ways this has revitalized the competition.
There is no doubt that with Champions League commitments and the drive for Premier glory; fans of the big clubs have been taking the competition for granted. It isn’t that long ago when Manchester United snubbed the tournament to send a team to the World Club championships so their priorities have been clear.
The emergence of smaller teams in this year’s event has given a new burst of life to the 2008 FA Cup. It may not attract as many observers around the globe as the Manchester United versus Chelsea Champions League final will but genuine football fans in England will appreciate the change to this years final. And in all honesty, it is unlikely to be as dull as last years FA Cup Final.
So the major day in English football will be contested by Portsmouth and Cardiff City, a team who don’t even hail from England. It could be said that Cardiff carry the hopes of the entire Welsh nation on their shoulders as they stride down Wembley way but no doubt some Swansea fans will be unable to cheer for their greatest rivals.
Big 4 Nowhere to Be Seen
The demise of the big four has been an interesting side-show of this year’s tournament. Arsenal were comprehensively trounced at Old Trafford but Portsmouth then produced a shock by winning 1-0 at Manchester United. Luck favoured Pompey but to beat the big teams a slice of good fortune is always needed and Portsmouth worked hard for their reward. In any other year, Pompey’s victory in Manchester would be the shock of the tournament but this was nothing compared to Barnsley’s exploits.
Going to Anfield and snatching a 2-1 victory at the death would have been hailed as one of Barnsley’s greatest achievements anyway but the club followed this with a 1-0 home victory over Chelsea. Barnsley have been battling relegation in the Championship but defeated two of the Champions League semi-finalists to book their place at the Wembley FA Cup semi-final. Any team that defeats Liverpool and Chelsea deserves a final place but Barnsley froze in the semi-final and Cardiff City ran out worthy winners.
2 Managers That Don't Need More Trouble
Both managers have fought back from unsavoury incidents where the Police and media were heavily involved but both may view the 17th of May as their chance of true redemption.
Harry Redknapp’s career in later years has been dogged with rumours and gossip of how he conducts his transfer activities but Redknapp has continually rounded on any criticism of him. Luckily for Redknapp, he has always been friendly with the media and the tabloids have rallied to his cause time and time again.
Davie Jones, the Cardiff manager, may feel more aggrieved about the media given the way they were quick to castigate him when allegations were made about his previous activities and job. A football preview article is no place to discuss the allegations made against Jones but it is interesting to see the difference in how the two men were treated. Either way, one of the two men in charge will likely have their best day in football come Saturday and won’t be wasting time worrying about what has happened in the past.
Pompey Playing for Premier League Pride
Portsmouth are clear favourites for the final but their recent form has dipped since reaching the final. Their final league match of the season saw them defeated 1-0 at home by Fulham, a result which ensured Fulham remain in the Premier League next season. There is no doubt that the Portsmouth players have had the Final in the back of their mind but it is not always possible to switch form on and off.
It should also be noted that some key Portsmouth players have been missing in recent weeks and some doubts remain over the fitness of some. Although he has been passed fit, some worry must remain over goalkeeper David James who has been in scintillating form and is a key reason for Portsmouth’s excellent season. His performances have banished the ‘Calamity James’ moniker that has dogged the shot-stopper for most of his career and if he returns in time for the Wembley showdown, Portsmouth will fancy themselves strongly.
Cardiff Carry the Championships Hopes
As for Cardiff, they will be looking to cause an upset but they have a level of experience throughout their squad which should ensure they won’t be overawed. Players like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the returning from injury Robbie Fowler have played on far bigger stages than the FA Cup Final and should help the squad retain focus.
The squad also features a number of players who have come down from Scotland with experience of Cup Finals and big international matches so the match could be closer than many people predict. Their winner in the semi was expertly hooked in by Joe Ledley and this level of quick thinking may be needed to get behind the notoriously tight Pompey rearguard.
Cardiff have some notable FA Cup history on their side and took the Cup out of England in 1927. A 1-0 victory over Arsenal was the only time a non-English team have triumphed in the FA Cup and Cardiff City fans will be hoping that history repeats itself just over 80 years on.
European Glory at Stake
Fans of both clubs will be mainly interested in the silverware but an added benefit is that the winners will also gain entry to next seasons Uefa Cup. This has created a lot of discussion with people wondering if it was right that Cardiff, a team from Wales, can represent England in Europe. This depends on Cardiff winning the final but if they do, they have been assured they will be allowed to represent the English FA on foreign shores. The only people who appear to be troubled by this are the Football Association of Wales who views this as a downgrading of their importance and of the troubles it may cause to their national game. This body may be better to consider the boon this could bring to football in Wales and should be supporting their clubs.
The national Cup Final has always been held in high regard in England and this year’s final is no different. The two teams may not sell a lot of shirts in Asia or the players may not be recognised the world over but at kick-off, very few in Wembley will care about that. The big two may still have their private battle in Moscow to come but this Saturday is all about the national game and seeing what team handles the occasion better.
Portsmouth were on fire in the first half of the season and are no doubt the favourites for many people but the citizens of Cardiff who cross the border will allow themselves to dream about lifting the prize at the end of the game.
By Andrew Reilly
for The Silver Circle at www.footballtip.co.uk
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