Ahh, the magic of the Cup. Roll up for the Mystery Tour and enjoy some observations on the Tour de Force that is the the 5th Round of the FA Cup:
First things first. Why is the Football Association in such a rush to announce the next round that they hold the 6th Round draw prior to all of the games in the 5th round being completed? I can understand if there's a replay which needs to be scheduled; fair enough, don't postpone the entire draw until the replay has actually occurred. But why does the FA hold the draw at 4pm GMT, before some of the matches from the PRIOR ROUND -- Arsenal/Leyton Orient and Fulham/Bolton to name two -- have even been played?
Is it really necessary to save a couple hours? Is it impossible to hold the draw at 7pm GMT? To you college hoops fans out there: Do you ever think -- ever -- that the NCAA would hold its draw and say "Either Michigan or Ohio State will play Butler, but because the Big 10 Championship match is just getting underway we don't know which team Butler will play yet."? It's ridiculous, and speaks to a Football Association that doesn't understand marketing practices or how to run a business. In that regard, I guess it shouldn't be too big a surprise. And people wonder why the FA Cup is not taken as seriously as it used to be....
I think they're going to start requiring helmets on the pitch when Manchester City plays. A couple of weeks ago it was Nigel De Jong and Micah Richards clashing heads in an ugly scene in which the latter was knocked unconscious, and today it was Mario Balotelli and a Notts County defender colliding at the very moment that Patrick Viera scored his brace. While his City teammates were celebrating the score, the oft-injured Italian dropped to the ground and appeared as if he had been knocked senseless (that could possibly be a poor choice of adjectives; I'm not sure Balotelli has much sense to begin with).
Balotelli's reaction after he woke up and found Carlos Tevez on in his place? He stormed off the pitch and threw his snood, adding another petulant lowlight to City's season.
Speaking of head injuries, I love the way physios wrap an ace bandage around the affected player's head, pat him on the back, and send him back out onto the pitch. As an American history major, the players with the wrap always remind me of the dude with the fife in the iconic Revolutionary War image shown below. And who said footballers weren't tough?
It was good to see Notts County coach and former Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince breaking out the monogrammed puffer coat, my new bete noir, for the match against City on Sunday. Please see yesterday's column as to my reasoning if you wish, but suffice it to say that I find the whole thing slightly ridiculous. Monogrammed cuffs on a dress shirt? Fine. Monogrammed breast pocket on a puffer coat? Who are you kidding?
I read in the paper this morning that English scientists have calculated that Ashley Cole's penalty kick will come closest to earth again in February 2015, so mark your calendars to make sure you get a good view of the ball as it passes by.
And about Cole's penalty: Did you notice the little shoulder barge that Johnny Heitinga gave Ca$hley on his way to the spot? It should've been ruled card-worthy, but it played a huge psychological role in yesterday's win by the Toffees. I mean, they're the only two players within 100 feet of each other, and Heitinga happens to walk straight into Cole just prior to his penalty shot? Surely not sporting, but very effective.
Saving the best for last, we'll sign off for today by reminiscing about Leyton Orient's Jonathan Tehoue and his wonderful 88th minute equalizer, which brings on a 5th round replay with Arsenal. And the best part about the whole thing was Tehou's unshakeable self confidence from the moment he jogged onto the pitch. Said he: "I just said to myself 'Gaffer, you have got the substitution right again.'" And so he had.