Giles Smith: Providing perspective
column Thu 1 Jun 2017
At the end of a long campaign which came to an end at Wembley on Saturday, Chelsea season ticket holder Giles Smith's glass is most certainly half full...
We've had better FA Cup finals, it has to be said.
For instance, 1997: that was a better FA Cup final. Beat Middlesbrough 2-0, Roberto Di Matteo scoring when the whistle was still in the ref’s mouth, Eddie ‘Eddie’ Newton adding a second what felt like three hours later. First major trophy in more than a quarter of a century. Joy unbounded.
2000: that, too, was a better FA Cup final. Beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the last such match under the old pepper-pot twin towers. Scrappy goal, even scrappier game, but who genuinely worries about the quality of the match in an FA Cup final, apart from the neutrals, who don’t really count because they’re neutral and therefore it’s not really about them? Joy, again, unbounded.
2007: that was a better FA Cup final as well. Beat Manchester United 1-0, Didier Drogba scoring deep in extra time, with the paint still fresh on the new Wembley Stadium, after Paulo Ferreira had completely silenced Cristiano Ronaldo for two whole hours. This on an afternoon when the new catering facilities saw decent fish and chips served at Wembley for the first time in history. Joy once more unbounded. (By the way, whatever happened to those fish and chips? The national stadium seems to have reverted to rubbishy bits of pizza and optimistically marked-up Krispy Kreme donuts. Poor show.)
2009: that was another better FA Cup final. Beat Everton 2-1 after falling behind, Frank Lampard completing the turn-around with his left foot and celebrating by country dancing with the corner flag. Played in yellow, which seemed a bit off at first, but worked out okay. Joy unbounded all over again.
2010: that was yet another better FA Cup final. Beat Portsmouth 1-0 with a luminous free-kick from Didier Drogba, who seemed to be making a habit of this ‘scoring at big moments’ business (and would gloriously confirm that impression in Munich in 2012). All this in the week after the Premier League trophy was presented to us. Further joy unbounded.
2012: that, too, was yet another better FA Cup final. Beat Liverpool 2-1, with the goal-scoring opened by Ramires, for whom we needed a song, and completed by Drogba, for whom we already had one, with Petr Cech pulling off a miracle 81st-minute save from Andy Carroll (pictured below), who ran away thinking he had equalised and possibly even continues to think so to this day. Joy unbounded yet again, not least with the memory still pleasingly warm of crushing Tottenham 5-1 in the semis.
So, yes, like I said, we’ve had better FA Cup finals than last Saturday’s. To name only those six.
But we’ve also had worse FA Cup finals. Far worse.
1994: that was a worse FA Cup final. Lost 4-0 to David Elleray, when hopes were stacked so high for a final end to a major silverware drought extending back 23 years. (Read it and weep, younger people.) Then, just to increase the indignity, we all got soaked going back to the tube afterwards because none of the weather forecasters had bothered to warn us that Wembley had its own micro-climate and was about to enter its monsoon season. Plus we hadn’t won the league title the previous weekend to make it all feel better.
2002: that, too, was a worse FA Cup final. Lost 2-0 to Arsenal, after Roberto Di Matteo, whose career had been prematurely ended by injury earlier in the season, had ceremonially led the team out, reducing us all to bits even more than the ceremonial singing of ‘Abide With Me’. Plus they were rebuilding Wembley so we had to get all the way home from Cardiff, which is a horrible journey at the best of times and certainly after you’ve just lost an FA Cup final 2-0 to Arsenal. Plus we hadn’t won the league title the previous weekend to make it all feel better.
So, yes, like I said, we’ve had far worse FA Cup finals than last Saturday’s. To name them both.
The perspective provided by history always helps, doesn’t it? It works like a soothing cream on the rawest wound. Yes, it would have been nice to have won the Double. One wouldn’t go so far as to say it would have been the icing on the cake, because the cake was already iced. But it would have been a bit more icing.
However, we had just won the league, and you end up seeming greedy, which is never a good look. Also, let’s be both honest and magnanimous about it: the better team over those 90 minutes won, so at least we don’t have to spend the summer seething about the injustice of it all. Apart from the opening goal being offside and involving a handball offence, obviously. But even so.
Whatever else you want to say about 2016/17, we finished the season as Premier League champions. And, as the saying goes, if you’d offered us that back in August…
If they offer us that this coming August, we’ll probably bite their hands off, too. Let’s see how we feel, though, when August comes around.