From the DW Stadium to Stamford Bridge: The Magic of the FA (Youth) Cup

Oooh, don’t they grow up so fast? One month they’re turning out against Wigan Athletic in the FA Youth Cup, the next they’re facing Chelsea’s first team in the actual FA Ben Watson Memorial Cup. On BBC HD TV at prime time Sunday afternoon, no less.

Without wanting to take undue credit, I like to think that marathon 120+ minute U18 tie was ideal preparation for Tosin Adarabioyo and Cameron Humphreys-Grant. Because the DW Stadium, with its partisan home support and idiosyncratic playing surface, has been termed ‘The Stamford Bridge of the North’ on at least one occasion.

(That occasion being just now.)

Underdog stories such as these are invariably drowned in a chip paper sea of thrice-photocopied articles (always) entitled ‘the FA Cup has lost its magic’. Thus, it was heartening to hear Sir Ben Watson speak to FATV last week about the ‘flick on’ that won Little Latics their own FA Cup.

“I just walked into the box and no-one picked me up,” he remarked with a grin that spread from Marsh Green to Tyldesley.

As Ecclesiastes observed, one must never underestimate the value of positioning oneself in the correct place at the correct time:

“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

I’m not sure if he’d care to adjust that statement in light of zonal marking or Pablo Zabaleta being sent off, however. I guess when it boils down to it, that Eccleston-Nasties chap was a terrible football pundit.

Thanks to a stellar month, 2nd placed Wigan Athletic are technically no longer the underdogs but the alpha males. But as long as you keep convincing yourself they have no chance, the longer the ‘magic of football’ will linger, and the more you’ll enjoy it.

Sing it with me now: “Little Wigan, Football League One…”

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