Chelsea-03 overcame Bayern Munich in dramatic fashion to win the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. They may have won the final, and their captains, plural, held aloft the European Cup, but let’s not kid ourselves that the Blues are the best team in Europe. They are not!
Chelsea-03’s success coupled with that of the other nouveau riche club Manchester City-08, which won the English Premier League, is yet another sign that the heart and soul is being ripped out of football. Yes, many neutral fans celebrated Sergio Aguero’s winner against QPR that gave City the title, but that had more to do with Man United and Alex Ferguson being denied it than any affinity for City. In time City will be as disliked as Chelsea-03 and the two clubs could make English football a poker game between two billionaire owners. I hope not.
The European Cup used to conjure up images of faraway places, exotic sounding continental clubs and storied teams. The Busby Babes perished on their way back from a semi-final in Belgrade. Real Madrid’s all white strip shone brightly in the early years of the cup and never more so than at Hampden Park when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. Celtic’s Lisbon Lions, Man United’s all blue strip; Ajax and Bayern Munich’s three in a row and Liverpool’s Emlyn Hughes all provide memories of a competition that celebrated its heroes, star teams, and unforgettable football. It is tough to believe that fans of the sport in 40 years time will look back on the current holders with any fondness.
Jose Mourinho coined the phrase “parked the bus” when Spurs had the temerity to go to Stamford Bridge, defend in numbers against his Chelsea-03 team, and come away with a result. The term has come to be used to describe all teams using negative tactics to get results such as those achieved by the Blues against Barcelona and Bayern Munich in this years CL semi-finals and final respectively. Chelsea-03 have emulated Man United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, and Aston Villa in becoming English Champions of Europe. However, the team they emulated the most was Steaua Bucharest which won the 1986 European Cup with similarly negative tactics.
While his team were reminding us of the infamous Steaua team Roberto DiMatteo is the modern day Tony Barton. It was Barton who took over Aston Villa mid-season and led the Claret and Blues to the 1982 European Cup where they beat Bayern Munich in the final. Two years later he was fired for failing to build on that initial success. If DiMatteo remains at Stamford Bridge he will struggle to match his accomplishments of the past month. Chelsea-03 needs an overhaul and, judging by some of the league results and performances under DiMatteo’s leadership, there is a reason his team finished sixth in the EPL. And Andrea Villas Boas is not to blame.
John Terry was sent off early doors against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg at Camp Nou. He received his marching orders with his team trailing 1-0. They then drew the game and won the tie in his absence. As a result of his dismissal Terry was suspended for the final which his team won. So let’s get this straight, in the two biggest games of the season and possibly the club’s history, Chelsea-03 won one and drew the other without their leader, their captain, their Mr. Chelsea, having played a meaningful part. Is there a moral to this story?
And it was nauseating to see Terry being the classic narcissist by wearing his kit, running onto the field to celebrate his team’s victory and then lifting aloft the European Cup. Does the man have no shame?
Didier Drogba was named Man of the Match for his role in Chelsea-03’s win. It is hard to argue with the award considering the Ivorian scored the equalizer for the Blues to take the final into extra time and then converted the decisive penalty to win the cup. However, Petr Cech deserves an honorable mention for his role in the game. The Czech star did his homework and saved an Arjen Robben penalty and followed it up with another stop against Ivica Olic in the shoot-out.
Man City-08 won the EPL title in the most dramatic of circumstances. Their fans now have a lifetime of bragging rights over their hated Manchester United rivals. Winning the league provides short term satisfaction, but to do so having won 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the season, and scoring the winner in ‘Fergie Time’ while denying his team the title on goal difference, will add to the folklore. Hollywood could not have scripted it any better.
Spurs did well to finish fourth, but it could, and should, have been so much better. Harry Redknapp’s side should have comfortably finished third and qualified for the group stages of the next year’s Champions League. They must now wait to find out if Chelsea-03 beat Bayern Munich to deny them their place. If it happens, Spurs fans cannot blame UEFA, Bayern, or Martin Fulop. They are in this predicament because of their own doing.
But what did Spurs do to their former keeper, Fulop, that he would gift Arsenal three goals in the manner he did in West Brom’s 2-3 loss to the Gunners at The Hawthorns?
The table, as they say, does not lie. That is not entirely true. The table does not lie only after the final game of the season. Therefore, Man City-08 are worthy champions; Spurs deserved to finish behind Arsenal, but ahead of Chelsea-03; Bolton, Blackburn, and Wolves were not too good to go down; and Liverpool finished four points behind Everton and 37 points behind City. The latter point is the reason Kenny Dalglish was fired.
The second most famous man in the world met the most famous man in the world at the White House this week. David Beckham and his LA Galaxy teammates visited with President Barack Obama when the two superstar VIPs came face to face. Obama’s poll numbers should get a little boost this week.
Alan Pardew was honored by the Football Writers Association and the League Managers Association as the Manager of the Year in the EPL. Pardew spent the Andy Carroll transfer money wisely when buying the likes of Demba Ba. He deserves acclaim for what he accomplished at Newcastle United. However, the pressure will be on Pardew next year as he seeks to juggle a wafer thin squad which will now have European football with which to contend. His ace scout Graham Carr will need to unearth a few more diamonds if Newcastle is to finish in the top five again next season.
Borussia Dortmund destroyed Bayern Munich in the German Cup Final with a performance full of pace, power, and attacking quality. The Bavarians looked vulnerable every time Dortmund ran at their back four. If Chelsea-03 are to win the UEFA Champions League they will need to attack Bayern with a similar level of speed and attacking play. The Blues might not match up as well against Munich as they did against Barcelona, so this might be a case of one game too many for the West Londoners. Spurs fans everywhere certainly hope so.
The UEFA Champions League Final is the biggest game in world football this weekend, but the all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Hibs, and the Championship Play-Off Final between West Ham United and Blackpool, are just as important to the four teams involved. In a perfect world Blackpool and Hibs will win the respective games.
There was so many potential discussion points for Extra Time this week – the demise of Barcelona, the Manchester derby, the race for fourth place in the EPL, Real Madrid regaining their La Liga crown, Ajax winning the Eredivisie, Thierry Henry’s injury, the narcissism of John Terry, Tax Dodgers FC otherwise known as Rangers Football Club, the appointment of Roy Hodgson to the England job – but on FA Cup Final weekend it feels more appropriate to be writing about the game at Wembley.
Liverpool will play Chelsea in what used to be the final game of the English season and what was once the showpiece event of English football. The game is no longer a stand-alone fixture on cup final Saturday and a case could be made that it is not even the biggest game in England this weekend let alone the biggest of the season. The FA Cup Final has lost its luster and its standing in the game. The kick off time has been moved from its historic 3:00 pm time slot to accommodate television a further sign of the demise of a once great competition.
The UEFA Champions League and the English Premier League have eroded the aura of the FA Cup. Throw in the morally bankrupt decision by the FA to force Manchester United to forgo the 2000 tournament, in order to play in the World Club Championship, and it is easy to understand why the FA Cup and the FA Cup Final are no longer put on a pedestal by players, clubs, and the fans of some clubs.
But for fans of a certain age, and I am one, the FA Cup and Cup Final Saturday will always be an integral part of our memories of growing up. In those pre-Sky days The Big Match and Match of the Day were the only glimpses of football we had unless we went to watch a game. On Cup Final day it was different. It was the one day in the football calendar when the game was covered by television from dawn to dusk.
We watched Cup Final Swap Shop on the BBC followed by Cup Final Grandstand and Football Focus. If you were more of an ITV viewer it was #73 followed by Dickie Davies and World of Sport and Saint and Greavsie. Both covered the team breakfast at the hotel, the bus ride to Wembley, the drive down Wembley way, and the view of the original Twin Towers. We followed the players as they walked on to the field waving to the crowd and reading the catchy banners that the fans had made up for the day. We heard Abide With Me, Wembley’s anthem, and a tune I want played at my funeral, before the teams came out. The cameras were in the tunnel as the two teams walked out on to the hallowed turf side by side behind their respective managers and captains.
The game itself was almost secondary to the buildup, but once it was played the memories the FA Cup Final have provided will always live long in the memory. Who can forget Alan Sunderland’s last minute winner for Arsenal against Man United in ’79? Or Ricky Villa’s mazy run and the orgasmic commentary of John Motson as the ball entered Man City’s net in ’81? Or Ian Porterfield’s winner for Sunderland against Leeds in ’73 and that stunning save by Jim Montgomery in the same game?
Who can forget Gordon Smith’s miss for Brighton in ’83? Or Kevin Moran’s sending off in ’85 followed by the superb finish by Norman Whiteside to deny Everton a League and Cup double? And what of the players who entered football folklore with a winner on the day and were hardly heard from again? Take a bow Roger Osborne, Alan Taylor, Bobby Stokes, and Keith Houchen, legends to Ipswich Town, West Ham United, Southampton, and Coventry City fans respectively.
I still get misty eyed when I see old black and white British Pathe News reels showing FA Cup Final highlights. Jackie Carey being carried by his Man United team mates in 1948. Spurs doing their lap of honor after completing their double in 1961. And the images of the Matthews Cup Final in 1953. I always felt sorry for Stan Mortensen who scored a hat-trick in the game for Blackpool, but was overshadowed by his legendary teammate.
I was at the 1987 FA Cup Final when Spurs lost to Coventry City. I cried my eyes out when we lost. The trip back to Holyhead on a train full of City fans was not pleasant, but I would not swap those memories for anything. Going to Wembley to see Spurs in a cup final meant something. It still means something. I am envious of the fans of the two teams playing this weekend and wish Spurs had beaten Chelsea and were playing Liverpool instead of making a league trip to Aston Villa. The FA Cup will never be the competition it was in my youth, but at the final whistle in this year’s final try telling Liverpool or Chelsea that winning the cup means nothing.