Portsmouth, West Brom, Barnsley and Cardiff City.
No really — that’s the semi-finalists’ line-up for the FA Cup. The first time in exactly 100 years that three of the last four are outside the top league. A top league that incidentally consists of players whose worth goes into millions of pounds; players who earn in a week what people like me wouldn’t in ten years…
But that’s besides the point. The question is, what does this really say about English football? That the top clubs have bigger fish to fry and thus give the world’s oldest football competition the short shrift (forgive the clichés)? Remember that Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool — all knocked out in pretty major upsets — are involved in the Champion$$$ League.
Or does it mean the glorious uncertainties of the FA Cup — wow, if I keep on with the clichés, I will give Ravi Shastri a complex — are, well, so gloriously uncertain that it has thrown up an absolutely unlikely last four, giving us the possibility of a thrilling and open contest…
English football is very much like Indian cricket — both think the sun shines out of the respective behinds. Which is why it is amusing to find the FA wringing their hands, trying to figure out if they will need to reduce ticket prices for the semi-finals to fill the 90,000-capacity Wembley. Which incidentally cost £798m and counting to construct and maintain.
Anyhow, perhaps it’s time to put the cynicism aside and cheer on Barnsley, Cardiff City, Pompey and West Brom. Credit where credit is due… or is it?