Wembley Cup final magic diluted by semi-final tasters
It’s just not right.
The FA may be contractually committed for the next 30 years to playing both semis as well as the final at their shiny new showpiece arena, but that does not mean we have to like it.
The weekend’s semis were both sold-out as almost 84,000 watched Portsmouth beat West Brom and Cardiff beat Barnsley and though most TV-watching neutrals were asleep by halftime in both games, those who turned up no doubt enjoyed their day out.
Which is what it should be like — for the final.
You play in the FA Cup to try to get to a Wembley final. It’s special. It always has been. Cup finals are sunny days in May and playing the semis there in April snowstorms devalues the main event and waters down the memories.
There was some justification for it when the FA broke with tradition by shifting Arsenal v Tottenham there in 1991. Other London grounds at the time had capacities that would have meant only around 20,000 fans of each team would have been able to attend and sending 40,000 north to Villa Park or Old Trafford seemed a bit daft.
Once the dam had broken the same arguments were used in 1993 and 94 when all four semis were at Wembley and again in 2000, the last year of the old stadium, when both were held there.
Now though, with grounds such as Old Trafford, the Emirates and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium able to hold 60 or 70,000, there is no excuse.
Wembley could revert to being the special destination but, as ever in modern football, the finances take precedence and another piece of “the people’s game” is consigned to history.
PHOTO: A West Brom fan reacts after his team’s defeat against Portsmouth at Wembley, April 5, 2008. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez