Belfast Telegraph

A magic night for the FA Cup

By Billy Weir

Straight from the off can I just say that I had absolutely no intention of writing a single word about Robbie Savage this week.

And with Dan Walker and Martin Keown also on board for BBC's much-vaunted resurrection of the FA Cup, even though I'm pretty sure that there have been several competitions held since they last broadcast it, I was hardly going to be short of targets.

But, and whisper it softly, I'm a bit of an old romantic at heart, the thought of an underdog having their day at the expense of a giant giving me a warm glow, and who knows, Man Utd might just get that run this season.

"It's football's great cup competition and the long journey from the first round to the final is about to begin," said Walker as I settled down, cliché tin at the ready, to see little Warrington Town play, err, little Exeter City, as their long journey to the final began.

My mood of optimism was further tested with the customary trip down memory lane for some famous goals and then it arrived - Alan Sunderland and his massive perm scoring the winner in the 1979 final. I bawled my eyes out. And in 1979 too.

There was a reminder too of happier times and the 1985 final, where Peter Reid shamefully got Kevin Moran sent off with a blatant dive (the mind plays tricks as the years tick by) before Norman Whiteside meted out some justice.

And Reid suddenly made an appearance from Mumbai in what appeared to be a hut, alongside Ian Rush, to send a good luck message to Warrington's manager, his younger brother, Shaun,

Reid the elder is managing in the Indian Premier League while the younger is in the Evo Stick Northern Premier League Division One North, so nice to see one of the family doing well.

"For Warrington, this really is their cup final tonight," said Keown as another quid was deposited in the cliché tin, before the obligatory poking of fun at the occupations of the amateurs, including, Walker said, 'a pizza man, hoping to deliver.' Another pound please.

As we were in Warrington it was time to search out a famous person from the town for a pointless interjection and no finer man for the job than BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans.

"I can't quite believe it, Warrington Town, quite literally kicking off BBC's coverage of the FA Cup," he said, only they didn't as pesky Exeter kicked off.

Before that though it was time for the man we'd all been waiting for as Walker commented on Exeter's boss, Paul Tisdale.

"He's stylish, his team plays good football, he's suave, he normally wears a cravat, he's one of the best dressed men in football and really there is only one man capable of talking to him," he said, as we cut to Robbie standing with Tisdale modelling a bodywarmer - when in Warrington...

It was probably the best material Savage got to deal with all night as he took the BBC memo saying 'get really excited for no apparent reason' to levels only usually seen on X Factor.

After six minutes there was no need for hype as Craig Robinson - plasterer by day, FA Cup scorer by night, as commentator Steve Bower said - gave Town the lead and a blood and thunder cup tie (I'll put a pound in the box) ensued.

A tackle worthy of a savage had Robbie in overdrive soon after Lewis Field's attempt to bury an opponent in a field in Warrington.

"Oooph, you know that's a bad tackle, studs up, excessive force, some referees might give a red card for that," said an irked Savage.

"It's a bad challenge, studs up, excessive force." We know, you just said that.

"No yellow card for that challenge? That is bizarre, how on earth he's got away with that I'll never know. I wish I was playing today's football." We all do, it means you wouldn't be commentating.

Bower then starting getting bored and taking the hand out of his colleague when Town substitute Phil Davies came on.

"He's a fencer by trade - that's not the Olympic sport, Robbie, it's more the landscape gardening version," he said, as Savage looked up what a 'landscape gardener' was.

It was getting even nastier, the Town goalie suffering what must have been a horrendous injury when saving.

"I think it has hit him on the inside of his leg, it has gone through his leg," said Savage but then he remembered there was a plasterer on and all would be well.

"He's flown out two-feeted. Two feeted? Two footed (guffaws to himself) - with his two feet," as another tackle came flying in and Savage's stuck two feet in his mouth before there were hundreds of feet all over the pitch as the referee brought a halt to proceedings.

Cup dreams still come true, as Keown concluded it was 'Roy of the Rovers' stuff (pound please) as a giant moon, presumably about to be orbited by Reid and co, beamed over the Winners Recruitment Stadium, while Exeter left with an aviary full of ill tropical birds.

But one thing is nagging at the back of my mind. If the FA Cup is so magic, why hasn't Robbie Savage disappeared?

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