Football/Soccer

Levels of FA Cup magic at lowest level ever

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy before the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group D match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Paul McConville

Magic is a commodity that's in pretty sort supply these days – there's less of it about around Christmas time we're told and the levels of magic of the FA Cup are at their lowest level ever. We haven't seen such a scarcity of magic since it wasn't rationed after the War. Even during Ted Heath's three-day week in the early 70s, you could still mine the odd nugget of magic, such as Ronnie Radford's raker in the mud.

After gorging on a feast of football and Roses on Boxing Day thanks to Amazon (on both counts), BT Sport shoved another truckload of it down our throats on New Year's Day. It's enough to make you want to go cold turkey – or cold Quorn if you're rocking Veganuary.

Undeterred, though BT ploughed on with another weekend crammed full of meaty football action, starting with the meeting of Rochdale and serial third-round exiters Newcastle.

The match took place at Spotland, as the BT commentator Peter Drury continued to remind viewers, rendering the bag of cash splashed out by sponsors to rename it the Crown Oil Arena pretty much worthless.

The Dale were well worth their draw, and indeed could have snatched it in a second half so stirring it was almost worth having to sit through Robbie Savage's inane platitudes. There was much made of Dale goalscorer Aaron Wilbraham hitting the big 4-0 a couple of months ago, but as he stood alongside manager Brian Barry-Murphy during the post-match interview, there was no doubt the Cork man, almost a year his senior, could easily tuck 90 minutes under his belt.

Spotland sprinkled a bit of much-needed magic on the competition but, there was little chance of BT's later game producing any such sorcery. With chief muggle Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United hauled themselves along to the scene of the last year's cup exit to face a Wolves team emboldened by the wizardry of Nuno Espirito Santo – even his name has a mystical ring to it.

Jake Humphrey had former United defender Rio Ferdinand and ex-Wolves boss Mick McCarthy for company and despite the host's best efforts to drum up enthusiasm for the meeting of two virtual reserve teams.

Mick in particular was going his own unique brand of avuncular apathy.

Jake: “This is a great place for a game of football”.

Mick: “Anywhere's a great place for game of football.”

Jake: “Just look at this atmosphere, this is a great way to get a game underway.”

Mick: “ *some inaudible indifferent mumble*”

To be fair, dragging Mick along in the hope of him drooling over a cosmopolitan Wolves team when he tried to navigate a Premier League season at Molineux with Kenny Miller might seem a tad cruel.

In a discussion about Wolves' powerhouse box of tricks Adama Traore, Jake let slip his affection for Rio's instagram account, in which he pointed out that the former centre half ‘looked ripped'. Cue some awkward looks and a puzzled, yet disapproving glance from Mick.

He wasn't impressed, and neither were any of us as the two teams scrapped out a drab draw.

There'd be more magic in a Paul Daniels show and he's been dead for nearly four years. Stick to Harry Potter for the spells, folks.

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Football/Soccer