Cup cracker went off with a bang but ITV were still too quiet

By Mark Webster for the Daily Mail

Over the years it has become clear that Ken Bates doesn't mind sharing his thoughts.

And in his most recent harumph, he could be heard grumbling through his beard like a slightly late Bad Santa about how the FA Cup, 'the most prestigious competition in English football', deserves more respect.

This he did prior to a weekend which included the two teams from Manchester going head to head, and if anyone could help put his words into action, you'd imagine it might be those two.

Cup cracker: All eyes were on the Etihad as Manchester City faced United

Cup cracker: All eyes were on the Etihad as Manchester City faced United

Also nicely positioned to do their bit for the cause was ITV, who gave up around six hours of their Sunday to a double-header of games - City v United followed by Sunderland at Peterborough - then the live draw for the fourth round.

ITV of course aren't messing around when it comes to the football. They provide the terrestrial home to the Champions League, they'll be carrying the Africa Cup Of Nations on ITV 4 and have bought into Channel 5's slice of the Europa League.

So as I prepared myself for this marathon session of FA Cup football, I assumed they wouldn't be backwards in coming forwards in supersizing on their third-round Sunday.

Indeed, even as the Roy Of The Rovers comic strip opening rolled and Adrian Chiles spoke of 'minnows, giants and romance' there was still the sense that the famous silver trophy was in safe hands.

However, for the next two hours plus, I imagine Ken Bates may well have been chewing halfway through those grey whiskers, because from there on in it was 'derby day', 'the feud' and 'two tribes' all the way; much too much about who would have bragging rights of being the best team in the land, rather than who might be making it into the draw later in the programme.

Now I understand that this was (and of course, certainly proved to be) a pretty magnificent 90 minutes to serve up for a Sunday lunchtime. And I can sort of see that ITV had concluded that the kick-off times had presented them with having the headline act on before the support band.

Nevertheless, that's the FA Cup and they are the vagaries that go with it.

On the box: Peterborough was the setting for Sunday's second live TV game

On the box: Peterborough was the setting for Sunday's second live TV game

I'm up here: Gordon Strachan (right) looks down on the action at Peterborough

I'm up here: Gordon Strachan (right) looks down on the action at Peterborough

So while Chiles and his fellow pundits devoured their game from the prawn sandwich suite high inside the Ethiad, Matt Smith was left tackling his Posh pie with a placcy fork in silent isolation until all the action and the stories were dealt with 200 miles north of London Road.

At which point he pluckily looked forward to a 'decent encounter' and for the first time on the day, reminded us that third-round Sunday had also given us a double bill featuring both gaffers Fergie Senior and Junior.

Now there's your storyline beyond the Cup itself, and the one that I'd have liked to have seen dealt with from both grounds at the very start of the afternoon.

Demanding respect: Ken Bates is a big fan of the FA Cup

Demanding respect: Ken Bates is a big fan of the FA Cup

However, there was still some good stuff on the menu. Chiles was in particularly avuncular, enthusiastic form as he tickled away at Roy Keane's belly, finally cracking a smile from him when he said how pleased they were to 'get him in the ground in one piece'.

From which the stoic Irishman quickly recovered and dead-panned back, 'well, we've been here since seven this morning'.

At half-time, it was poor old Peter Reid got to swallow the short straw as they threw to a break with his words 'the game has gone' ringing in our ears, while at the end Gareth Southgate's always astute tactical analysis explained why it hadn't completely.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Darren Ferguson

Family affair: Sir Alex Ferguson and son Darren were on FA Cup duty on Sunday

And for those who like that kind of thing, there was the two-footed tackle; the one delivered by Gabriel Clarke on Roberto Mancini in the post-match interview in which he plugged away with the red card question, and got very little from an angry, mumbling Italian in exchange.

Then finally, FINALLY, it was down at Peterborough for the potential cup giant-killing tie of the programme, and Smith was in good company with Barry Fry (described as 'Mr Peterborough, director of football') and Gordon Strachan (who chipped in with his own job description, 'unemployed').

However, although the set-up to the game was a good one and reminded us why Chiles had spoken of 'minnow, giants and romance', I'm surprised it was enough to leave commentators Peter Drury and Jim Beglin speechless, as technical issues meant all we had was 'atmos' sound from the ground for a good 10 minutes.

Talk about the game amongst yourselves for a bit, would you? 

Careful ITV, that might just catch on!


  • Friday night on BBC1, and the One Lenny Henry was up for the Cup; pre-empting the weekend's Birmingham and Wolves Cup tie with a 'True Blood' skit featuring a 'brumpire' and a ' werewolf-erhampton wanderer'
  • 15 minutes into that game on ESPN, and the cameras spot a young fella in no shirt, but fashionably knotted scarf. 'The youth of today', pondered Craig Burley.
  • BBC 1 on Saturday lunchtime, and more cutting edge sports fashion from the Great Edinburgh Cross Country run as American John Grey splashed across our screens in a sleeveless vest AND sleeves. We'll all be wearing it come spring

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