A Champions League tie was marred by a controversial red card, Cristiano Ronaldo scored, Fergie vented his anger at the referee, Celtic fans had their time of their life despite witnessing their team being taught a lesson by a European club, a certain Welshman scored at White Hart Lane and Agent Benitez has gone quietly about his business – losing games, that is.
Thankfully we can now look forward to a weekend of intriguing novelty kindly offered by the FA Cup. For all the sarcastic comments and contemptuous looks this glorious tournament has suffered in recent years, the previous rounds did their best to revive the aura of the Cup, with giant-killings, last-gasp goals and controversy aplenty.
Furthermore, with this brief bout of spring set to depart Britain’s shores for who knows along, you could do worse than spend a weekend in the pub watching football (although your better half might disagree), so here’s a guide of what to expect from the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
1) Adrian Chiles will introduce Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off between Everton and Wigan by describing David Moyes as a “man on a mission” in his quest to finally win a trophy with Everton. Should the quote ring familiar, don’t worry, Chiles recorded it when Everton reached their first major semifinal for 20 years in 2008 and has played it ever since.
2) If you have “10 seconds” in the sweepstake for the time required by a TV pundit to mention Barnsley’s 2007 cup run, Saturday could be your lucky day as the Yorkshire club faces a trip to Manchester City. Tipping which pundit will utter the words is slightly harder, but our money is on Kevin Keegan. Alternatively, you can stick a cheeky fiver on ESPN broadcasting an interview with Rory Delap, in which the Irishman will mention his thirst for revenge after losing the final against City in 2010.
3) City will put three or four goals past Barnsley, prompting newspapers and social media to complain about how the “magic of the cup has vanished and, in this day and age, cup upsets are a rarity”.
4)Barnsley will secure an unlikely win at City, prompting newspapers and social media to complain about how the “magic of the cup has vanished, since big clubs no longer take it seriously”.
5) Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United on Sunday will be depicted as Rafa Benitez’s last chance to make the remainder of his tenure at Stamford Bridge slightly more bearable than the utter misery he has been engulfed in since replacing Roberto Di Matteo. Expect A4 paper and cardboard signs aplenty in the away end.
6) Wayne Rooney will probably be followed by a dedicated camera, whose footage will then be carefully scrutinised to find out whether, depending on the number of times he has smiled during the game, he really wants to leave Old Trafford or not. Should he score, the goal will automatically be referred to as a “sign to Sir Alex Ferguson”.
7) Andy Townsend, at some stage, will yell “anything can happen Clive, this is the FA Cup!” prompting everybody to wonder why they decided to tune in.
Despite the fact that Millwall and Blackburn both ply their trade in the second tier of English football, the game will still be portrayed as “a chance for a Championship club to reach the semifinal of the FA Cup”, which may be true strictly speaking, but it will have lost its interest about five minutes into the first half.
9) Roy Keane’s return to Old Trafford after Tuesday night’s fireworks in the commentary gantry, should be one to remember. Whatever the outcome of the game, expect the Irishman to give Southgate, Dixon and Chiles the death stare, while defiantly refusing to acknowledge their argument. Off the pitch, just as he did on it, Keano takes no prisoners. Should be a cracker.
10) The draw will be conducted yet again on the backdrop of an empty Wembley, by two former players, one them reasonably famous, who will awkwardly smile into the camera – an exercise whose dullness has very few challengers in the known world. For the record, the balls pulled out of the pot will read Chelsea vs Manchester City and Everton vs Blackburn.
Enjoy the viewing.