March 27, 2023

Wigan win the FA Cup Final – but what’s happened to the ten hour TV build up? #FACupFinal

Bring back the TV FA Cup build up

In the good old days the BBC would start the build up to the FA Cup final sometime during the early hours of the morning, before most people had got out of bed. They’d have hundreds of presenters, interviewing anyone they could find –  from the players to the men who made the half-time pies. Those were the days when this football spectacle was treated with the respect it deserves. Now, with kick off at 5.15pm the TV programme starts at only 3.15pm. 3.15? That’s only two hours before! That’s not enough time to recap the FA Cup runs of both teams – every year since the competition started – interview seventy ex-players, discuss the team mascots and show photos of the players when they were children.

It started well for Wigan. They managed to stop City scoring for the entire first half. They didn’t manage to score themselves either, but in these situations that is a moral victory for the underdog. After 22 minutes Wigan were playing like the favourites, getting chances on goal and muted penalty shouts. Things got so bad for City that the fans started cheering ironically whenever they managed a shot, no matter how wild or off-target.

Drink responsibly whizzed past on the advertising hoardings at the top of the screen. It’s probably not the effect it is supposed to have, but it reminded me I hadn’t got anything to drink. McManaman got past his man and got a shot away. But when the light blue shirts had the ball they seemed to have more time. Espinosa made some nice runs up the left wing for Wigan, pinging attractive one-twos off his teammates but his penalty shout never looked likely to be given. The referee was ideally to placed to wave play on.

You expect the class to start showing when the players get tired. Already Wigan’s keeper Joel had had to make some last ditch saves with his feet. At half time Wigan were still potential winners, but the feeling that a moment of magic was just round the corner for the Manchester City stars was hard to avoid.

Aguero had a close chance just after halftime, shooting just wide. McManaman had another great run, Maloney hit the cross bar. But it was when Zabaleta was sent off for a sliding tackle that Wigan started to look as though they might just pull this off. Maloney’s free kick went wide but eventually his corner was met by Ben Watson who headed into the far corner. It was the 90th minute and for Wigan fans there were a nervous three minutes of extra time to negotiate. But Manchester City’s stars could not get the equaliser.

In the olden days by the time the match started the whole nation had been wound up into a frenzy of anticipation. Get on with it! had been shouted at the TV for hours. Now it is all much more meh. But Wigan have managed to bring the excitement back into the FA Cup. They gave us a giant-killing and  that is the great hope of the neutrals watching their annual football match. Everyone has heard of Manchester City. Fewer knew the footballing ability of Wigan Athletic. They do now.


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