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7.1.2003
My cup of tea

Portsmouth - Crystal Palace 1-1
Crystal Palace - Preston 2-0
Crystal Palace - Coventry 1-1
Blackpool - Crystal Palace 1-2


Cup is just a waste of time. It is a dull and useless competition to have in the side of the league. A cup is footballs compulsory evil.

This is how football people think about their national cup in most of the countries in Europe. Teams just try to go through it with least possible effort. If someone happens to put a good cup run together then they might start to take it bit more seriously but still keeping the main focus on the league games.

However here in England it is different. There are no joking around with one of the biggest and most traditional cup competitions in the world. Many people still consider that it is the daddy of the whole football season.

So what else can I tell you about the Worthington Cup? Ok, seriously taken, I think there is only one real cup competition in England and that is the all mighty FA Cup. With all respect, Worthington Cup is just like a diet coke: a poor consolation to the real thing.

There is no such real thing in Finland. I think I have won two Finnish Cup titles and five League Cup titles. It was nice to get trophies and medals and all that, but overall in there it isnít considered of being a too big of an honour. I really canít rate those victories too high in my football career.

However one of my biggest dreams has always been to win the English FA Cup. First of all it is a very respected all over the world. Moreover it actually used to be one of the only football games shown live in Finnish telly. I used to wait for it, watch it and then play it again in the park. I dreamed I would one day score the winner in the final.

That is FA Cup: not just traditional, but also full of dreams and magic. Many league titles and stories wonít live that long, but stories and legends from the FA Cup are painted heavily to history and into peopleís minds.

I have in my mind the two missed chances on my FA Cup debut away against Newcastle last season. We gave a good game, but as a result my FA Cup history stayed short. This season I hoped to make it longer as the draw gave us Blackpool away.

My knowledge about Blackpool was quite limited, actually I didnít know anything about the team or the city. All I knew was that it was going to be a six hours bus trip. Which direction, I didnít know. I wasnít taught that in my schools geography class back in Finland. However I knew and football had taught me that it was going to be a hard game.

It was also a no-win game for us. Everyone expected us to win, just because opponent was from lower division. And we would be a nationwide embarrassing joke if we lost or drew the game. Everyone loves David beats Goljat -stories. So FA Cup is also a great opportunity for press and other people to shoot down players and teams they have otherwise praised and lifted up.

So you go there to play with your pride and the knowledge that this is the game you canít afford to lose. It goes both ways though: you might have to play against Blackpool but you could get Manchester United at the next round.

However you canít be thinking about the next round when you are out there. Every game of football is hard to win. And these games are extra difficult. People are often fooled by the fact that there are division or divisions between the teams. That doesnít count anything when the game starts. It is not like you are playing against bus-drivers and farmers up there. Most of the teams in every division are good professional sides with great desire, high work rate and decent ability.

Furthermore for many teams playing against higher division team it could be the biggest game of the season. They are definitely up for it because it is their chance to show themselves, even to be the fairy-tale of the season. And when Blackpool smelled a hint of looseness in the beginning, they were capable of punishing us.

That was the worst thing that could have happened. It was already hard to have away game with all the new circumstances, bad conditions and all that travelling but there we were struggling to get ourselves going against buzzing opponent lifted by the score line and passionate supporters. I knew it was going to be a long hard workday at Blackpool.

No matter how well you prepare for it, they always have this chance of surprising you. That is what cup is all about. It is always sudden death. You donít get another chance to correct your mistakes. My dreams were shaken by Blackpoolís defence and our pride was on the line. We fought back, really worked our way through and won in the end, but it wasnít easy and I wouldnít like to go back there again.

A league is like marathon: after common start there is a long hard work and in the end the best runner will most likely win even though he might have had his occasional difficulties. On the other hand a cup is more like a series of individual sprints against different opponents, completely different game so to say. It gives more chance to luck and human error. It requires pieces of very delicate art to finish it as a winner.

A cup is dramatic and unpredictable. That is part of the reason why no team counts their season entirely to cup success. However it is a good and valuable extra. Not just the sport side but also economically. Prize and television money can be very helpful even crucial for many teams future. Of course you wonít buy any Verons with that money, but you can easily get few Riihilahtis and most importantly finance part of the season and future.

I have scored the winner in FA Cup final in my dreams and now I am one night closer to making that really happen. So is Shrewsbury. Everton isnít. It was one of the surprises this time. And knowing FA Cup there are still many others to come. So please give us home game against Liverpool at the next round.



This time I recommend:

1. FA Cup
- The Daddy of the football competitions -

2. Knowing your geography better
- Donít we all need to know where Blackpool is -

3. Watching Friends from telly
- Joey must the funniest thing on earth -



I do not recommend:

1. Diet Coke
- Donít let the word ďdietĒ to fool you that it is healthy plus tastes like poor consolation -

2. Killing me softly Ėmovie
- Predictable waste of time -

3. Anything electrical from Toshiba
- It canít be just my touch that breaks them all Ė



ď I am new in town, can I have directions to your apartment ď

- Unknown person in West End


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