April 02, 2008

FA Cup Results Prove Football is 'A Funny Old Game'

The football betting world has been turned upside down by a whole raft of giant killing results in this year’s FA Cup, writes Michael Maerz.

While the Premiership’s ‘Big 4’ of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have progressed to the quarter finals of the Champions League, the FA Cup will not be won by any of them for the first time since Everton, currently fifth in the Premiership, took home the famous trophy in 1995.

This year's FA Cup final will also be the first to be played between two teams outside the ‘Big 4’ since Tottenham beat Nottingham Forest in 1991.

The FA Cup is the oldest and most prestigious football competition in the world. The knock-out competition, which was established in 1871, involves 731 teams from all over England and Wales.

The FA Cup quarter finals were played on 8th and 9th of March, a weekend that will surely go down as one of the most extraordinary chapters in the competition’s history.

Barnsley, a team that is struggling to stay in the Football League Championship, the division below the Premiership, turned in another giant killing performance. Having knocked out Liverpool in the previous round, they knocked out Chelsea to reach the semi-finals.

Barnsley’s wins against two of the Big Four were good news for the bookies. So too was Portsmouth’s 0-1 away win against the mighty and FA Cup favourites Manchester United.

At least Arsenal were spared the ignominy of this slaying of the mighty ‘Big 4’ clubs by lesser teams, having been knocked out in the previous round by rival Premiership title contenders Manchester United.

History is certainly in the making for this year’s FA Cup. West Bromwich Albion, who will play Portsmouth, the only Premiership club left in the competition, in one of the semi-finals this weekend, last won the FA Cup in the 1968 final against Everton.

And you have to go back 81 years to 1927 when Cardiff from South Wales made history by becoming the first and only non-English club to win the trophy with a 1-0 defeat of Arsenal. Standing in Cardiff's way of reaching another FA Cup Final is the giant-killing team from Barnsley.

The last time that three non-top flight teams reached the semi-finals was exactly 100 years ago! If Portsmouth are slayed by West Brom then we are guaranteed to see a team from outside England’s top division lift the famous trophy for the first time since 1980 when West Ham United beat Arsenal.

The bookies have naturally made Portsmouth the clear odds-on favourites, followed by WBA at 3/1, Cardiff at 4/1 and Barnsley bring up the rear at 15/2.

However, given the giant killing in this season’s FA Cup, the bookies should perhaps take note of Jimmy Greaves, one of the best forwards to grace the game in England, who once said: “Football is a funny old game!”

Ten other quotes by footballers and football managers you may not have heard before, include:

1. “I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered,"
George Best

2. "I've told the players we need to win so that I can have the cash to buy some new ones"
Chris Turner, Peterborough manager

3. "I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel"
Stuart Pearce

4. "It has been suggested that we'll squander the sponsors' money on wine, women and song. That is not true. We don't do a lot of singing here at Portman Road."
John Cobbold, Legendary Ipswich Town FC owner at the unveiling of a major sponsorship deal

5. “Sometimes in football you have to score goals.”
Thierry Henry

6. “I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in a foreign country.”
Ian Rush

7. “I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona.”
Mark Draper

8. “My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.”
-David Beckham

9. “We just ran out of legs.”
David Pleat

10. “I like to think it's a case of crossing the i's and dotting the t's.”
Dave Bassett