Unless Eduardo plays the game of his life tomorrow, it looks like I’ll be getting me coat and making an early exit from the Fantasy Cup. Graceful, mind you. Happily giving interviews to the television stations, and refusing to blame the referee. We was outplayed – simple as that, Garth.
And yet, a quick look through the files in the Football Corner records offices offers a degree of solace. Although there exists an illustrious history of sides winning the FA Cup and Premiership Double, there’s also a burgeoning tradition of sides crashing out of the cup early and then going on to win the league. Alex Ferguson, calm down and take note.
In 04/05, eventual champions Chelsea went out in the 5th round, losing to 1-0 Newcastle. Man United won the league in the 02/03 season, but again, the 5th round seemed a hurdle too many for the most consistent team of the season, losing 2-0 to Arsenal. United won the league in 00/01 as well, but they crashed out earlier still that year, losing 1-0 to West Ham in the 4th round. 1996/97 was a canvas on which a similar picture was painted, United going out in the 4th round to Wimbledon, and then going on to win the title.
And then there was Blackburn. Remember they won the league? Seriously, youngsters, it happened – 1994/95. They didn’t even come close in the cup though, falling at the first fence, the 3rd round, to Newcastle. Finally, United went out in the 5th round the year the Premier League launched, 1992/93.
And so, myself and Alex breath a sad, but hopeful sigh. Sure, we would have liked a romantic run in the cup, but this way, our teams will have more time to focus on what’s important: slowly, but surely climbing up the table to eventual league triumph.