A moment of opportunism at Non-League finals day

MAY 22, 2023: WEMBLEY stadium has long banned any bag over the size of A4. If it is because of security, they need to know that weapons can come in far smaller sizes than a sheet of paper. If it is about restrictions around space and size then they should take a look at other aspects of their stadium, from turnstiles to seating. OK, thems the rules, nothing over A4. But what do we find when we arrive at Wembley Stadium station? A bag drop at the bargain price of £ 10. This was nothing short of scandalous, an opportunity to fleece the fans even more. A4 is also designed to restrict any idea that you could bring something to eat to the game, forcing you to buy some of Wembley’s quite inadequate catering. They create a captive audience and then compel you to buy junk food and poor quality beverages. Why do we put up with it?

Non-League finals day was disappointing from an entertainment perspective. The FA Vase final was poor and settled late on by a decent goal by Ascot United. The hordes of Newport Pagnell fans went home disappointed, their team didn’t do itself justice at all. However, their swift departure left a vast chasm of available seats in areas where stewards outnumbered the spectators. There is limited interest in the job of neutral fan in football these days.

The Trophy final was of a much higher quality, but again, it was not in any way a spectacle. And it was settled by a dreadful goal when the Gateshead keeper tried to clear but Halifax’s Jamie Cook’s body sent the ball into the net. What a pity a final should be settled in this way, but they all count.

Only 27,000 turned up for NLD, the smallest normal time crowd for the project. By the time we got back to London Kings Cross, Gateshead fans were already looking for their train home. Halifax wouldn’t be far behind, but they had something to celebrate. One can only hope the bag drop pirates were counting their losses.

Neil Fredrik Jensen

The final the media wanted

AND SO, we have an all-Manchester final for the first time in the FA Cup’s long history. City, in pursuit of the impossible treble, will take on United, who can complete a domestic double if they add to the EFL Cup they won earlier this year.

It is, commercially, a most attractive final and the Football Association will have no trouble accessing a global audience. Winning the semi-finals on penalties is an unsatisfactory way to decide a tie. Brighton had more than their fair share of possession and opportunities to score and they look a more complete team than Manchester United, but thems the breaks as they say.

There have been around 13 previous cup final derbies, although it does depend how you stretch the elastic to classify these games. There have been seven London derbies in the true sense of the word, although clubs like the Wanderers and Royal Engineers were London institutions.

The first was in 1967 (Spurs-Chelsea), the most recent Arsenal against Chelsea in 2020. Interestingly, Chelsea have been in four “Cockney Cup finals” and have lost the lot. There have been two Mersey finals, Liverpool winning both, and if you are liberal about the Birmingham area, West Bromwich Albion have been in four, three against Aston Villa and one against Birmingham. But, as every true Baggie will tell you, West Bromwich Albion is not in Birmingham!

It is a little surprising that City and United have not met before in a major final. In 1926 and 2011, they clashed in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and City won both. In 2020, both were in the semi-finals but both were beaten, City by Arsenal and United by Chelsea. The narrative, of course, will be all about City’s treble chances and at the moment, they are looking quite good. They still trail Arsenal, but the pendulum has swung away from the Londoners and it is almost “advantage City”. If they beat Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League, you have to fancy them to beat either of the Milan sides. And they will be favourites in the FA Cup final.

Spare a thought for Brighton, however. They have had an excellent season and played some tremendous football. Let’s hope they get the European football they deserve.