[dropcap]C[/dropcap]limbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made history by ascending the Dawn Wall of El Capitain in Yosemite National Park in California. To learn of the lengths the men went to in order to sustain themselves and make completion of the expedition feasible is to wonder what enjoyment could be derived from such arduousness.
What’s certain is that, for most, even if the interest in undertaking such a feat did linger, the ability to do so would not. Yet, there has been much clamour to decry and belittle the efforts of the Americans. Reaching for Sir Edmond Hillary’s conquest of Everest as a point of comparison hardly rings of fairness.
The whole debate would lead one to wonder when is something that looks quite remarkable actually not so at all? And it would be a reasonable starting point for assessing what recently transpired in what was the opening round of fixtures involving the top English clubs in this year’s FA Cup.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to muster bounds of enthusiasm about the goings on in a setting which mostly appears to revolve around money to a disinteresting and off-putting degree. Example, a serious amount of respect would still be retained for Steven Gerrard as a footballer and leader. However, had he not come out with the “Would have stayed if only…” patronising nonsense, there would have been no diminishment thereof at all.
It’s that kind of guff, mind you, that makes the FA Cup all the more appreciable. Leading to a restoration of faith in simplicity. Teams like Bradford and Middlesborough and Cambridge United couldn’t care a jot about the financial affluence of those they are taking on. Full cognisance exits, however, of how seismic it would be for entities such as the above were they to dispatch a big noise from the old competition.
Now, Jose Mourinho can – often justifiably – be accused of a lot of things and with equal regularity voluminous degrees of bovine excrement emanate via his vocal chords. What often transmits itself as at best flippancy would not, it’s ventured, extend to being expunged from the FA Cup at the second hurdle by an outfit galaxies adrift of his regardless of what method of measurement you care to use.
Concurring with his conclusion that his club’s catapulting from the competition was “A disgrace” must not, for all that, besmirch the achievement of their conquerors in removing them from the knockout competition. Nor can it be countenanced that those in charge at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur had their charges ill-prepared for their ultimately futile outings in the Cup.
Much of what the FA Cup is about revolves around nostalgia, history and tradition. Viewing the meeting of Manchester United and Yeovil Town with the man of the house and being informed of the occasion sixty years ago when the lower league side usurped the illustrious opponents only served to underline as much.
Such a realisation also set a train of thought in motion which strenuously questioned whether the influx of foreign players at the bigger clubs are aware of the significance of the competition and, allied to that, do they extend themselves to the full range of their possible productivity therein?
It would hardly be unreasonable to wonder whether such supposed luminaries of the game as Angel Di Maria or Radamel Falcao were aware of the existence of the city of Cambridge, let alone that there existed a football club of modest but plucky ability thence. They certainly appeared disorientated by the biting cold of an English Friday night.
Any semblance of professionalism on their part should preclude the promotion of such circumstances as justification for inefficiencies on the night in question. Furthermore, becoming overly focussed on the shortcomings of the lavishly endowed would wrongfully divert focus from the laudable efforts of their so called lowly opponents.
Wasn’t there, in a way, an apt resonance to the very fabric of the FA Cup in seeing Luke Chadwick coming on against the club whence his football journey began. Just as it was quirkily fitting that United were at Cambridge at all, from where they long ago acquired the classy but luckless Dion Dublin.
Sometimes in football – or anything else for that matter – the best stories are in fact the ones bubbling under the surface. Waiting for an outlet perhaps. Therein lies the attractiveness of the football world outside the glamour of the top rung. Tales such as that of Dunboyne native Darragh Lenihan recently scoring the first goal of his professional career for Burton Albion or Dubliner Darragh McAnthony wholeheartedly investing – financially and otherwise – into attempting to turn Peterborough United into a major force.
Neither of the above tales, admittedly, relate to the FA Cup, but, it’s the opportunity to put such matters in focus which the competition affords that makes it so special and restores one’s faith in the game.