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Sutton fans really had only come to see the Arsenal… and a guy eating a pie

OPINION: We are all ordered to enjoy the 'magic' of the cup, but is it all an illusion?

23 February, 2017 — By Richard Osley

IT’S been rammed down our throats, leaving us all gasping for air: It’s the magic of the cup, we’ve been collectively ordered to agree, the magic of the cup. It’s magic.

Yet here we are, the top four teams in the Premier League look likely to be the same top four in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, at which stage they will no doubt be split by a goal or two in the overly-defensive borefests that usually result from two big teams meeting in a knockout.

What’s worse, they will have reached the final stages without really having to face much of challenge at all, debasing the achievement of actually lifting the trophy.

Take Spurs, their fans will crow for ever should they finally end their 26-year wait for an important prize, the first since Lineker, but they are heading to Wembley without actually playing a top league team. It’s hardly breathtaking.

Arsenal had to play at Southampton – not always easy – but they have now been presented with two non-league teams to run past, a marked contrast from when they won the FA Cup a couple of years ago by beating Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool.

The reason they are playing these stumblebums is that nobody downwards from about seventh in the Premier League table sees any magic in the FA Cup at all, seeing the tournament as a drain on their puffed-out, smaller squads.

In fact, until you get down to the part-timers, most teams seemed more interested exiting the cup as quickly as possible. For example, Lincoln, Arsenal’s next opponents, benefited from Ipswich and Brighton being distracted by the financial need to get promoted into the Premier League. Both teams hacked their normal line-ups to pieces come FA Cup day to preserve their energy for more important things.

Ah, but it’s the magic of the cup, we are still told. Just look at all those grassroots, football fans who turned up at Sutton on Monday evening, real supporters, for real, magic, football.

First off, we look forward to these same heroic fans travelling to see Sutton play at Torquay United on Saturday. Or the home game against Boreham Wood on Tuesday.

Secondly, Monday night’s match must have been as dull as anything on Dave for the neutral viewers.

And, finally, there is no magic in people betting on a reserve team goalkeeper, fat as can be, eating a pie, possibly a pasty, on the sidelines. The commentators, however, still lapped it up, perhaps not wanting to believe that this stunt, was just that, a stunt. They showed replays of every chomp and chortled for five minutes about how you don’t see that in the Premier League.

No, you don’t, Gary, but like most illusions, when you see how the trick is done, it quickly becomes apparent that there was nothing magical about it at all.

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