So: The Cup Final… did I miss anything?

I’m old enough to recall the good old days when teams like Everton and Watford contested the FA Cup Final.
I distinctly remember one year when the loyalties on the playground at Holden Lane First and Middle School were split quite evenly between the glamorous Spurs and the less fashionable Manchester City.
As a youngster, on the day of the big game itself I’d be glued to the telly early doors, lapping up all the guff – like the atmosphere on the team coaches and interviews with the star players.
I would even adopt a team for the day. Didn’t we all?
The FA Cup Final was a rare treat – a look at how the other half lived. It was a national celebration.
It had nowt to do with me or Stoke-on-Trent and so I could just enjoy the spectacle.
I’m sad to say, the hype surrounding the Premier League and the monstrosity that is the Champions League have all but killed off my interest in the pinnacle of club football success.
Beyond hoping that Vale can scrape into the third round and get a money-spinning tie against a top flight club, the truth is it barely registers with me these days.
In fact, I think the last Final I actually sat and watched was Manchester United’s drubbing of Millwall in 2004. Even that was by accident.
On Saturday, however, all that changed. The FA Cup Final got personal.
I knew it was going to be bad when the phone rang two days after the semi-final.
It was my auntie Rose who has lived in New Zealand for more than 30 years. She and her husband John (an irrepressible Stoke fan) had decided to fly over for the Cup Final.
I couldn’t believe it. Not much can persuade John to leave Auckland these days – let alone pay for Cup Final tickets which I’m told cost more than the air fare.
You see, if you’re a Vale fan and you’ve just experienced our annus horribilis, seeing Stoke City make it to Wembley is the footballing equivalent of a kick in the you-know-whats: The dictionary definition of salt in the wounds.
There is literally nowhere to hide. You can’t go anywhere within a 15-mile radius of Hanley without being confronted by people wearing Stoke tops.
Bandwagon-jumpers who have never taken an interest in football before are now declaring their undying loyalty to the Potters. Anything to bask in the reflected glow of success.
I know exactly what such people can do with their souvenir red and white foam hands.
Yes, it’s grim up north (of the city) right now and all I can do is remind myself that football is cyclical.
I wished my Stoke fan mates all the best before the game then did what any self-respecting Vale fan would do: I avoided the TV and radio all day and spent the day with my children.
Did I miss anything?


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