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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

View from the Couch...The League Cup Final

View from the Couch...The League Cup Final

by James H

It took fifteen minutes of Sunday's coverage on Sky to realise that somebody other than Wigan would be competing the Carling Cup final. Lots of blue and white, kids with painted faces and Richard Keys talking about 'meteoric rises'. Former man city beanpole and all-round nice guy Niall Quinn pointed out that 'their rise through the divisions shows that you don't need money to succeed'. At about the same time Dave Whelan probably settled in to his cheap-seat.

The teams walked out in to the arena with a blaze of pyrotechnics and i worried that one of the engines might tip over and incinerate the teams. The team shuffled from foot to foot in a formal line as they were introduced to the guests of honour, none of whom i recognised. I'd feel cheated if i was in the crowd. It reminded me of the half-time draw at Old Trafford, when i'd secretly be quite keen to know which celebrity i'd be squinting at as they walked to the centre-circle and back - only to feel short-changed once when the 'celebrity' was Fred the Red.

All of the standing around didn't do Mike Pollitt much good, his hamstring giving away in the second minute. By the time Alan Parry was referring to prawn sandwiches for the first time on commentary, Wayne Rooney was firing us in to the lead. I tip that boy to be one of
the players to watch in the World Cup and the things is, as Niall Quinn would probably point out, people forget how young he is.

To their credit Wigan gave it a go in the second half and might have scored when Van der Sar saved an angled shot from Camara but when Saha vindicated the managers decision to play him, we could all relax a little easier. Sky's cameras focused in on Ruud's facial expressions when the goals were scored, hoping to see traces of disappointment or envy, but instead seeing a big grin and a look of genuine delight. 'Oh well', said some director inside the Millenium Stadium.

Ronaldo made it three and then got booked by the referee for taking his shirt off, clearly jealous at what he'd seen. Of course, had Robbie Fowler got his man-breasts out after scoring he'd probably have got away without the caution. Rooney made it four and then Gary Neville was denied a penalty by the ref who was by now feeling a bit sorry for the underdogs. Personally, i'm glad Nev didn't score, as he would have only dashed a hundred yards to the opposing fans, pulled out a gun and fired indiscriminately - killing a whole coach-load of Romanian orphans in the process. The FA would have had a field day.

The last half hour passed by uneventfully, although Ronaldo incurred the wrath of Andy Gray for doing some 'disrespectful' keep-ups. I don't get football critics - the game needs players like Ronaldo and yet he gets branded a show-pony and criticised for trying skills
most people could only dream about! If his name was Jay-Jay everyone would love him. On a sidenote - what is a 'show pony'?

The award ceremony was like the launch of a new car - all spotlights and exploding glitterbombs. 'The traditionalists might not like it' said Richard Keys, finally talking about something other than Ruud's shock omission, 'but they certainly put on a show here'. In fairness, the traditionalists would probably prefer a firm handshake, a synchonised throwing of flat-caps in the air and then war with Germany.

Gary Neville raised the trophy - his moment only slightly ruined by the red and white ribbons which covered his face - and then the lap-of-honour could begin. Wes and Rio danced, Fergie and Carlos did that Mexican wave thing with the trophy while it was Ronaldo who won the prize for most United scarfs/hats donned.

'I've always rated the Carling Cup highly' texted my friend from somewhere within the stadium as the players headed for the tunnel. 'Yeah' i replied, 'the European Cup is just so 1999'.


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