FA Cup Semi Final 2023 – it’s a funny old game
A couple of days ago saw the first of the two 2023 FA Cup Semi Finals at the national stadium.
It’s a decent enough venue to watch football and unless you’ve taken a seat too close to the pitch then views of the game are good.
Having said that, although I’ve sat in many different seats at Wembley over the last dozen or so years I have always avoided sitting behind the goal, it just seems to be a bit far back with the ‘track’ around the pitch between the stands and the playing area.
What goes around comes around.
I spent about 15 years working in Sheffield and it’s fair to say football conversations and banter were a frequent theme of my time there.
There are a couple of amusing memories that spring to mind.
One of these was when I was based at a building known as Moorfoot. I went into work one morning to find a flip chart stuck to the wall by colleagues celebrating Manchester City’s relegation to the third tier of English football. As you can imagine there was much laughter at me and the plight of the team I followed! Things are of course a little different now.
Another amusing occasion was when I went into the office the morning after an FA Cup game that City played in Sheffield in 2008.
The previous evening my son and I had travelled over the Pennines to the game, only to watch City crash out to a bizarre goal that was assisted by a rogue balloon on the pitch!
The game entered football legend and became known as balloon gate.
Of course it was a superb way to win if you were a Sheffield United fan but beyond disappointing for City fans.
In it’s own way it was sort of in keeping with the pretty hapless club that City were at that time. I went into work to find colleagues had pinned balloons to my office door with much laughter greeting my arrival.
Of course there is little more certain in life than what goes around comes around.
Whilst the downfall of both the Sheffield teams has been significant, I have no strong views on them either way really. My main source of satisfaction and amusement (in a football adversity sense) has been to watch the downfall and wilderness years of Manchester United.
There have been many occasions in the following years for me to find amusement with the football predicaments of many of those I worked with up and down the country.
But on the basis of what goes around comes around I’m realistic enough to know that others will have the opportunity in the future to ‘get their own back’
Wembley for semi finals?
Part of the joy of your club being at Wembley is actually being there and experiencing what is generally (win or lose) a pretty good day out.
There are plenty of opinions about whether the national stadium should be used for semi-finals or reserved just for the main event of cup competitions and play off finals.
My general opinion is that the tournament and occasion are devalued by playing semi-finals there. But of course the location and timing of football games are the servants of other money making masters.
The so called ‘match day experience’ rarely has the match going supporter at the heart of things and this game was no different.
Rubbish timing and quiet in the stands
Although a kick off time of 16:45 is not geared for match going supporters, our familiarity with the journey meant our travel to Wembley was routine and without fuss.
The weather was good enough for our usual wander around and allowed me to indulge one of my other interests – photography. Although I didn’t take so many pictures you’ll find a few pictures from the day in the picture galleries below.
Not the right place
The absurdity of using Wembley (in my opinion) for this game was brought home by the thousands of empty seats that in turn contributed to a pretty quiet stadium. I think there are many reasons for empty seats at sporting events, and that include: the cost of living, the match day expense and the need for folk to balance their own budgets.
I don’t line up with the hard of thinking view that it points to a lack of support – more a lack of affordability for many folk.
Putting that aside I had watched the pre match interview with the Sheffield United manager, and although it was the first time I had seen him interviewed I thought he presented well and gave the impression of being a decent and likeable man, who spoke about having a plan for taking on City.
Without exception all the Sheffield United fans we spoke to before the game, as well as being good humoured expected their team to lose the game. Having been to Wembley and seen City lose FA Cup semi-finals as well as losing out in a final to Wigan I rarely take any football result for granted.
We’ve got a game plan
But the Sheffield United manager had said enough in his TV interview for me to be genuinely intrigued by what the game plan might look like.
In practice, although Sheffield United had an opportunity to score in the first minutes of the game and went on to have a decent first 45 minutes, there did feel a growing inevitability to the outcome.
The game was competitive but for the most part City were able to play at what looked to be a relaxed and low intensity pace, which was probably ideal with the rigours of this week’s visit by Arsenal to the Etihad stadium.
It’s not the first time we have been there
In the past a trip to Wembley for us was a distant dream.
But I’d reached the stage as a Manchester City supporter that my expectations were so low I never expected to see City win a trophy again and as long as we didn’t get a good whipping by the ‘big teams’ I had sort of settled for my ‘football lot’.
It’s beyond doubt
But then of course things changed for City, and now I often hear the team I have support referred to as the best team in the world – I really don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s beyond doubt they play the most sumptuous of football, are packed full of staggering talent, play their game in a first rate stadium and it doesn’t cost me very much to go and watch them play … and I get to go to Wembley at least once most years.
So although it wasn’t the first time we have been to Wembley, it’s not a trip we get bored with.
Given the cyclical nature of football we know these extraordinary times won’t last forever so we enjoy them whilst we can.
A trip to Wembley also provides the opportunity for me to take a few snaps and post them, so why not check out the pictures out below
Picture gallery 1 -people
If Wembley is about anything it’s about the people who are there. Clicking on any of the images will open a picture gallery that you can click or scroll through.
Picture gallery 2 – match day scenes