Sunday, 4 January 2009

Why do it the hard way?

One thing that really annoyed me at yesterday’s cup tie against Scunthorpe (even more than Jobi McAnuff’s continuing inability to deliver a cross when he has the ball in an attacking position) was something I overheard. “I hope we beat this lot today,” said someone in the row behind me, “and then draw Manchester United in the next round.”

This kind of witless statement really gets my goat. The point of entering a cup competition, surely, is to win it. To do so, you need to beat a series of teams. Therefore it follows that you want the opposition set in front of you to be as beatable as possible, yes? Not Manchester sodding United, who would doubtless field their junior team and wipe the floor with us.

I can just about understand this attitude from players (I heard it repeatedly on Five Live in the post-match interviews with plucky lower- and non-league victors on the way home from yesterday’s match), who recognise that a tie against a ‘glamour’ club is a rare opportunity to put themselves in the shop window. But from fans? I don’t get it.

And before you object that the value of a cup run is somehow proportional to the status of the teams you beat, answer me this: who did Watford beat on their way to the final in 1984? I had to look it up myself, even though I was at most of the ties: Luton, Charlton, Brighton, Birmingham and Plymouth. All decent enough clubs (well, with one notable exception, soon to be non-league no-hopers), but hardly the A list. But who remembers, and who cares? The record books say that we reached the final, and that’s all most of us know, or need to.

So if we get to the final this season by beating Scunthorpe, Leicester, Kettering, Crewe and Hartlepool, I for one won’t be thinking: “Isn’t it a shame we didn’t get to play Chelsea or Arsenal?” Cobblers to that. If Cardiff can get to the final, so can we. Bring it on!