Whatever happened to the heroes?

A couple of years go me and a mate were chuffed to bits to be invited to one of football’s great occasions. More exclusive than the Cup Final or an England match, after all there are 80,000 tickets up for grabs for them. And more front-line than the look behind the scenes a few years previously at Sky Sports and Match of the Day, for they only report the news while we were in a place that was making it.
We were in the offices of the FA, at that time tucked into a corner of Soho Square. The occasion was the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup. Some people we’d chatted to on the Sunday morning train to London really couldn’t understand our excitement, but they’d never joined a crowd huddled round a transistor radio in the playground in the days when the only live coverage of the draw was by the BBC on a Monday lunchtime.
So we were buzzing. Looking forward to meeting Sir Trevor Brooking, and then gobsmacked by his football knowledge – he actually knew Hull City had been denied three points the previous day by Cardiff City’s late equaliser at the KC!
As a kid I’d watched Kevin Beattie and Sammy Nelson play; now I was going to watch them do the Cup draw!
And that’s when it started to go a bit pear shaped. As we arrived they were doing a rehearsal… “Oldham Athletic will play Hull City.”
“Nah. Boring. Don’t want that in the real draw,” I said.
Our hosts from the sponsors led us to a hospitality suite, gestured to a table the size of the six-yard box, groaning under the weight of a buffet that would sustain us through our night on the town, and then nodding at the plasma screen in the corner: “And you can enjoy a drink while you watch the draw on there – obviously we can’t have all these people in the studio.”
Gutted, but they were right. Especially when the boring rehearsal of “Oldham Athletic will play Hull City” was replaced by the real-life, three-week round-trip of “Plymouth Argyle will play Hull City” and prompted an expletive of disappointment.
But we had our pictures taken with Sir Trev and the Cup – the real one, not one of those imitations they take round the fan gigs – the Cup, not Sir Trev, although he was real as well – and went to the pub to talk about football, and in particular the magic of the FA Cup.
Three years on, the conversation today would have been somewhat different. Ever innovative with their penalties to settle Cup Finals, turning a blind eye to weakened teams and giving the Premier League Champions a year off, the FA came up with Noel Gallagher and Sergio Pizzorno to pull the balls out of the velvet bag.
Now while I wouldn’t throw money at their stuff I don’t have any huge objection to Oasis or Kasabian as tunesmiths or musicians, and I can’t say they did a particularly bad job of retrieving the balls and revealing the numbers – except when Gallagher could only manage “What a draw!” instead of letting us all know he’d just sent Liverpool to Man United.
But have we really run out of FA Cup heroes to do the draw? Or were they just busy? Maybe Dave Beasant was at home watching telly, rehearsing a few moves of his own ready to bid for stardom in next year’s Strictly Come Dancing, while Ronnie Radford rooted round his garden for the sort of bushtucker ingredients that might get him into “I’m a Celebrity…”
The reality of this show can only be that FA Cup heroes are now considered too boring by a governing body struggling for new ideas to put a shine on their biggest tournament. And that can only lead one way in a nation now so desperate for a lift that it pushes celebrities into every corner of every life.
Maybe for the Fourth Round draw we’ll get Ant and Dec, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop or Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell.
And maybe when celebs have taken everyone else’s jobs me and my mate will get invited down to the FA again and asked to do the draw because Rolf Harris is reading the news, that kid off Harry Potter has just got the Blue Peter gig and Vanessa Feltz is auditioning for the brand new series of pro-celebrity bus driver.
There is of course another option. Just complete the sell-out by offering favoured customers of the sponsors the chance to do the draw, or by wheeling out their chief exec and his beaming offspring, or by charging people a few quid for their opportunity to make the Cup draw. It works with match-day mascots and would be simple to organise. They pay their money, they are given a shiny new FA Cup football kit and they make the draw – maybe even from their front room or another location of their choice.
The only tricky bit is how to price this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But however you place a value on the magic of the FA Cup, it’s falling all the time.

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2 Comments

Filed under By Phil Ascough, Celebs, FA Cup, Football, Hull, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Whatever happened to the heroes?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Whatever happened to the heroes? « Phil Ascough's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. David Burnby

    The bit about huddling around the transistor radio for the cup draw reminded me about the death of another old football tradition – the checking of the football pools coupon. It was my introduction to football as a small child, watching my Grandfather swear profusely as his predictions turned to dust. I’d probably never have heard of Stenhousemuir or indeed Ackrington Stanley if it wasn’t for the pools. Sure people still do the pools, but the lottery has killed of the magic. And computers check the coupons nowadays. Wonder if they’ve programmed them to say “Bloody ‘ell Tigers – not another draw!” (well, some things remain refreshingly familiar)

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