What To Expect From… The FA Cup Final

This year’s FA Cup Final will be shown not only on ITV1, but also on ESPN who are offering an ‘advert-free’ version – for the duration of the game at least (you know, like it was back when the game was on the BBC). In any case, choosing between Adrian Chiles and Ray Stubbs is a decision no person should ever be forced to make, so here’s how things might pan out.

On ESPN, Ray Stubbs introduces the coverage with all the enthusiasm of a man being led to his execution. To compensate, we get a shot of Kevin Keegan looking far too excited, which is a shame because the only reason we tuned in was just in case he repeated THAT Man United moment. We would have loved it.. etc

Over at ITV, on the other hand, we get an introductory stand-up routine from Adrian Chiles (see below). Across the country viewers who are unlucky enough to get both channels seriously consider the mute and Radio Five Live combination.

At some point there is a compilation of clips from past finals. Watch in awe as Cantona, Villa, Gerrard, George, Ljungberg and Wimbledon build expectation up to a point where we all manage to forget that these things usually disappoint. On the plus side, Chiles has finally stopped talking.

Pre-match prediction time. No Graeme Souness, unfortunately, because the game’s not being shown on Sky Sports, so we can’t hear him tell us about how the match will be rubbish. Amazingly, even though two different channels’ worth of ‘experts’ all tell us what they think, nobody guesses the score correctly.
The match kicks off. Now the decision is between ESPN’s John Champion and Chris Waddle and ITV’s Clive Tyldesley and Jim Beglin. Despite the fact that Beglin will surely bring up Liverpool at some point ITV seems like the smart choice simply because nobody can understand a word Waddle says. If it goes to penalties, though, can anybody resist hearing the Geordie’s pearls of wisdom?

Somebody goes in with their studs showing which brings a chorus of protests from the fans but, as if by magic, all the commentators say at once “that’s the sort of thing you can’t get away with in Europe, but in England, it’s all part of the game.â€?

Half Time comes around, and Chiles/Stubbs makes the mistake of asking any of the pundits what they think. Keegan/Southgate/Townshend/any ex pro utters an astonishing array of clichés and mixed metaphors, saying something like: “sooner or later [insert player name here] will have to step up to the plate, because he’s just not at the races at the moment. It’s a game of two halves but they need to stop sparring at find a knock-out punch.â€?

The second half begins. Even though Liverpool aren’t playing, Steven Gerrard manages to score a late winner.

Later, the Match Of The Day team do it all again, but with a strange feeling of farce as Gary Lineker and co try to pretend that no other channel showed the game.