God! Show Me Magic



Posted Tuesday, January 05, 2010 by theguardian.com

God! Show Me Magic
The DW Stadium crowd enjoy Wigan's emphatic FA Cup third round win over Hull City.

IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC

When a metaphorical mob of pitchfork and torch-waving football hacks converged on FA HQ this morning to inquire about the dismal attendances at assorted FA Cup third round fixtures over the weekend, the blazers missed a trick. Asked to explain the 5,335-strong crowd at the DW Stadium for Wigan's win over Hull City, they should have seized upon the palindromic symmetry of the figure and haughtily asked: "Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?" Instead, they produced a ream of statistics that, held up to the light and looked at in a certain way, sort of kind of prove that the fabled magic of the Cup still exists.

That may be so, but the FA's insistence that Everything Is OK smacked of Obi-Wan Kenobi waving his fingers and telling a Stormtrooper "these aren't the droids you're looking for". The FA Cup may still be magic, but it's more Paul Daniels-pulling-a-mangy-rabbit-from-a-hat-in-Blackpool than Harry Potter reciting the words to Avada Kedavra and all hell breaking loose … unless you happened to be at Old Trafford.

There may have been 514,172 supporters at 28 matches over the weekend, but only eight of the home teams attracted above average home crowds, while a whopping 11 home gates were down over 30% on average. While this is probably understandable on a cold day in winter when everybody is hungover and skint, it still beggars belief that only less than 10,000 Teessiders could be bothered to go and see Manchester City's show-ponies demonstrating their dressage skills at the Riverside.

"Every year we monitor attendances at FA Cup ties closely," said an FA spokesman, staring so intently at a group of fans walking out of the Bramall Lane that one of them spontaneously combusted. "We will continue with clubs, supporters and media to do all we can to promote the competition," he continued. Thus far, doing "all we can" doesn't extend to the FA lifting their ban on clubs selling adult tickets to Cup matches from the third round onwards for less than £15, but if the Cup is as magic as they claim it is, a quick wave of the FA wand would prompt the disappearance of a farcical rule.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I know where I'll be on June 11, the first game of the World Cup – in my motor home travelling around America. I won't watch the tournament, the timings won't work out" - with that sort of attitude towards the World's Greatest Sporting Event Apart From Perhaps The Olympics Marco Materazzi should feel at home in the US of A.

FIVER LETTERS

"Did anyone else experience the strange sensation of wanting Nasty Leeds to win a football match yesterday? It was good at the time, although right now I feel dirtier than their midfield during the 1970s" - Jason Smith.

"If Landon Donovan ever gets to play in the Premier League here are a few things you should know about him. 1) Everyone's favourite nickname for him in the US is Landycakes. 2) He is a case study for an affliction that shrinks call anchoring. Counter-phobic behaviour designed to ward off evil spirits, fear and trepidation, superstition - and yorking a free kick into the mezzanine. Watch his behaviour leading up to a free-kick or, even worse, a penalty. He squats down and touches his face, shoulders, chest - usually passes on his swingers - a ritual that varies on the moment but contains a number of required touches that are necessary to acquire enough stability to kick the ball. It will surely drive David Moyes mad" - Ed Campbell.

"Re: The Fiver Christmas Awards 2009. I can't argue with you regarding Tim Lovejoy, but I rather like Spoony" - Alan Green.

BITS AND BOBS

Owen Coyle has met Burnley chairman Barry Kilby to talk about leaving Turf Moor. Coyle, who gets about and presumably has an all-zones railcard, also spoke to Bolton earlier today.

According to newspaper talk, 'Arry Redknapp has been sniffing about Sunderland weightlifter Kenwyne Jones, with David Bentley and his confusing hair perhaps going in the other direction.

Chelsea are also apparently lining up a "surprise" - ie "utterly bewildering" - £4m bid for Emile Heskey, currently rated by Martin O'Neil slightly more awkward and club-footed than the notably awkward and club-foooted John Carew.

Jose Mourinho vehicle Internazionale have signed free agent Goran Pandev. Pandev was previously released from his contract at Lazio after an extended legal hissy fit. "I grew, I became a man, a real player and today I am happy to be here," he said, eating a lollipop.

And Bayern Munich and France minor Asterix villain Franck Ribéry has suffered a recurrence of toenail-knack. Ribery arrived in Dubai for Bayern's winter training camp with badly swollen big toes, despite having had holes drilled in his toenails for horrible sounding reasons understood only by sadistic teutonic doctors. "It is practically incredible," sniffed Louis van Gaal.

A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS

Happy new year! Nasty Leeds pulled off a massive shock yesterday at double figure odds when they knocked out Manchester United. The League One side are now 200-1 to revive the glory days of the early noughties and win the FA Cup. The holders Chelsea are now 11-4 to defend their crown after a thumping win over Watford yesterday and Arsenal are next at 5-1.

This is the opening Fiver of 2010 so let's have another glance at some 2010 specials. How about 5-1 for Wayne Rooney to be England's leading goalscorer in the World Cup and for him to score 20 league goals in 2010? We have also been inundated with bets on Cheryl Cole at 23-10 to become pregnant in 2010.

Our new sign-up offer is simple - to avail of it just deposit up to £50 with Sportingbet and we'll match that and put it in your account.

STILL WANT MORE?

Let Barney Ronay regale you with five things we've learned from the FA Cup weekend.

Sid Lowe hails the return of La Liga - and Atletico's miracle win over Sevilla.

And our Football Weekly podcast brings in the new year with a random tale about Jeremy Beadle and by riffing on Jamie and Louise's new advert.

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