Thursday, February 26

We're not very good…

Middlesbrough 2 West Ham 0 (FA Cup)

How to kill the FA Cup. There’s more spare seats at the Riverside than at an estate agents’ recruitment fair. At least there’s 3000 Hammers fans present thanks to the club’s free coaches, giving it "Your support is f***ing shit!". But when it’s on live TV why not give out free tickets rather than devalue the Cup even further? Or scrap the ideas of replays altogether?

Settling down on my armchair with a bottle of Ridley’s Old Bob (top Essex brewer) my dreams soon fade and die. Zola has disrupted the successful midfield quartet of Collison, Behrami, Parker and Noble by dropping Welsh Jack for debutant Kovac. The big Czech looks like a lifeguard from Baywatch, and starts to play like one too, giving away a silly free kick on the edge of our box after five minutes. Downing, like Matt Taylor on Saturday, curls a beautiful free kick into the top corner.

Zola has dropped Di Michele too, for 12-year-old Freddie Sears, up against playground bullies Wheater and Huth. Carlton still seems to be feeling his injury and our one-touch game is horribly awry. The Smog Monsters want it more and score again after Althugh the plus side is 'l now be able to get to my mother-in-law's birthday bash on semi-final weekend. 28 minutes, Tomkins clears the ball back to the edge of the box and Tuncay fires home, aided by a slight deflection. Game over man. And ITV don’t even ease the pain by putting on a Tic-Tac ad instead of the goal.

Kovac has a shot saved, Sears shoots wide and in the second half Parker fires our best shot just wide after taking a pass from sub Di Michele. Green makes a fine save and the rest of the game is Boro playing out time on their tundra of a pitch before the banks of vacant red seats. Where is the glory, the vision and the gleam? It’s the sodding FA Cup. And we haven’t won a proper trophy for 29 years.

It’s a mystifying performance. Zola must take some of the blame for his tinkering. What the game also emphasises is how thin our squad is. We’re relying on inexperienced youngsters (Tomkins and Sears) and hopeful buys like Kovac and Tristan as soon as we get an injury or loss of form. And why no chance for the £5 million Savio? We should never have sold Christian Dailly.

As frustrated Irons fan Will Thackeray would have put it: “Ah, Vanitus Vanitatum! Which, of us has his desire in life, or having it, is satisfied?”

Although the plus side is I'll be able to make my mother-in-law's birthday on semi-final weekend. Time to concentrate on booing Craig Bellamy.

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