Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

I Love the Cup Final

I love the FA Cup Final. For me it is, and always will be, the most enjoyable day in the English soccer calendar. I fell in love with the game on Cup Final day in 1974 when Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-0 at the old Wembley. I remember watching it on TV with my father and his friends. It was the first game I had watched all the way through as there was very little live soccer on TV in those days.

On Friday night I heard a radio pundit bemoan the lack of interest in the Cup Final. There’s little doubt that it no longer grips the nation in the way that it once did. In the old days it seemed as if the country came to a standstill on Cup Final day and everybody – men, women and children – set aside the day to watch it together.

It’s different now. There is so much live soccer on TV these days that it’s just less of a special event. Unless of course you are a Portsmouth or Cardiff City supporter. And for me, that is the true magic of the Cup.

I’m absolutely delighted that none of the Big 4 teams were involved. Manchester United and Chelsea would probably have cancelled each other out and the game would have dragged on for ages. What we got instead was a free-flowing, open and unpredictable game. I don’t care if the Big 4 don’t take it as seriously as they used to. There are over 100 other clubs who do and the FA Cup is as much about them as it is Arsenal and Liverpool. There wasn’t a lot of “beautiful” play but there was no lack of passion and commitment.

And what of the coaches? What do they bring to the party? Never having been in a competition final I can only guess. But I suspect you don’t need to do much in the way of motivating your players. What greater motivation is there than playing in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Tactically, I guess Dave Jones, the Cardiff City manager, will have identified certain players and aspects of the Portsmouth play that he would look to have neutralised. Harry Redknapp, on the other hand, would probably have told his players just to play their own game.

The other major telling factor in these games is fitness. Cup Finals are notoriously hard work for players. I guess that’s a combination of the intensity of the situation, the determination to fight for every ball from kick-off, the size and nature of the Wembley playing surface, and the level of  professionalism of the players. I’ve seen every Cup Final since the age of 8 and what they all have in common is that one team will run out of energy towards the end of the game. If they’re trailing, they just can’t seem to get back into it (as was the case with Cardiff). If they’re winning, they run out of steam trying to protect their lead (West Ham United two seasons ago).

So that’s it for another season. I’m looking forward to the next Cup campaign already. Round 3 in January is where the fun really starts. Let’s see if Havant and Waterlooville can get drawn against Liverpool again and finish the job off this time.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching


1 Comment so far
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As a Pompey fan I can say I am very proud of the guys – the final wasn’t a classic but not many are.
As Harry said, it was the result which mattered not the performance.
But the Glory of the Cup is still there, for the smaller clubs especially – the only chance that some of the non-league players get to play on the biggest stages against top class players. Not many other sports allow this.
And just look a tthe turn out for the parade yesteday – 100 000 people – try telling them that it’s not that important.

Comment by Fraser Mitchell

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