As if being disparaged as a meaningful competition was not enough the FA Cup Final for 2011 is now squeezed in with Premier League matches on just another weekend.
I can only assume that the decision to move the Final from the traditional slot of the weekend after the conclusion of the domestic league fixtures has been based on the Champions League final being at Wembley on May 28.
Nonetheless you would have thought that the FA and the Richard Scudamore Premier League could have found a way to allow the FA Cup Final a special place on the calendar no matter the other calls on Wembley Stadium.
Now we have both teams, Manchester City and Stoke, who are going to have accept that their “day in the sun” is going to be being more like “a day with clouds and possible showers” – a definite chance of their parade being rained on.
It is very unfortunate and short sighted because we have two teams that are long overdue a chance to lift a trophy and fans that seem genuinely excited at the prospect rather than others who may view it as just another notch on the trophy bedpost.
Manchester City last made it to a FA Cup Final in 1981 but lost after a replay to Spurs in a match widely regarded as a classic. Their last FA Cup final came in 1969 when City beat Leicester City by the only goal of the game scored by Neil Young.
Young died earlier this year after a long illness and the club has dedicated this season’s cup run to their former hero. Stoke’s wait has been considerably longer.
Formed in 1863 this is their first ever FA Cup final although they did win the 1972 League Cup Final at Wembley.
There have been three failures at the semi final stage before the total dismantling of Bolton just a few weeks ago allowed the club to take that one “final” step.
Both teams have injury concerns for the final but City have a bit more of a reason to be more optimistic. Carlos Tevez went down with a hamstring injury against Liverpool and at that time it looked as if a return this season was out of the question.
But Tevez made it back – albeit for 7 minutes or so – against Spurs on Tuesday and the problem now facing City manager Roberto Mancini seems to be whether he gambles on starting Tevez or to keep him in reserve on the bench.
A hamstring also saw Stoke’s Matthew Etherington pull up and he looks to be more of a doubt.
Centre back (and goal threat) Robert Huth is also problematic after suffering a knee injury against Arsenal. Manchester City are favourites but Stoke’s directness and set play deliveries makes them extremely dangerous.
The fact that City lost two goals to Everton headers last weekend at Goodison will not have been missed on Stoke manager Tony Pulis.
Stoke also have a decent record against Manchester City over the last few years and actually knocked City out of the FA Cup last season after a replay.
Reminds me of – the 1987 FA Cup Final when Spurs (3rd place in English First Division) faced Coventry City (finished 10th). Coventry had never won the FA Cup or been to a final but they beat Spurs 3-2 in extra time.
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