Friday, February 25, 2011

Extinquish the spark, please!

That's the hardest thing about Sunday's Carling Cup Final. Despite the form book, despite the gulf in finances and quality, and despite the fact Arsenal are 1/2 to lift the cup and we're only 6/1, the spark of hope is there. I've suppressed it ruthlessly in the build up to this weekend, but it wouldn't be the same if I went into Sunday's final with no expectations whatsoever. What would Fate have to crush then?

We've done this dance before. The last three times Blues made the FA Cup Quarter Finals, the three play-off failures, the Worthington Cup Final defeat in 2001... Each has parallels - three penalty shootout defeats, for starters - but each was also exquisitely unique in the build up, the manipulation of hope and finally the crushing of it.

This is what it's like to be a Bluenose. No doubt fans of other teams share this pain - Fulham in particular I suspect, seeing as they have an even worse record than us (we have one major honour, if the League Cup in 1963 could be called that). It's not like we're truly mediocre: we haven't spent half our history languishing in the lower leagues. It's not like we've not competed at times: two FA Cup Finals, two Fairs Cup (now Europa League) Finals, numerous FA Cup Semi Finals (up until 1975, which is why I'm left with the crippling despair of three Quarter Final defeats), an inability to push on in the league, etc, etc.

Our history is littered with these glorious - and abject - failures, and readers of this blog will know how well I've suppressed these emotions for the past three years. So what do Blues do? They go and resurrect that spark of hope. Not with some quick fix, knowing full well I've been there before and won't fall for that again. Oh no, they bring in a manager capable of - come Monday morning - of being our greatest ever, with more promise to follow. They change the owners, they hand over our highest placed finish for 51 years, and now they take us back to the Carling Cup Final.

I know the odds - our chances of winning are probably one in ten (or one in six, if you believe the bookies). I know come Sunday evening I'll probably be plunged into despair: a 4-0 defeat, maybe? The sort that destroys our season and sees us plummet back towards relegation, just as the Cup Quarter Final defeat in 1984 did? Or worse still, another penalty shootout defeat?

But what if we win? It's there, the thought, the spark of hope, threatening to spill out. What would it feel like? Oh, sure, it's not the FA Cup, the one thing I desperately want. But it's still a major honour, still the biggest thing we'd have won in our history, and it would be now, not 48 years old.

Imagine: we win the Carling Cup, and suddenly our league form lifts and we comfortably escape relegation. But we're also in the FA Cup Quarter Finals still too: maybe we'll go on in that competition too. Perhaps we'll even reach the Final, and maybe we'll even defy the odds and win that too. I can see the DVD cover now: Cup Kings.

Of course, I don't seriously believe it for a second, and in 50 hours or so the thought will be gone, replaced by the despair I've become so familiar with. And why not an adapted version of that last paragraph? We lose the Carling Cup Final, our league form disintegrates, but we somehow struggle on to the FA Cup Final, only to lose that too - just as Sheffield Wednesday did in 1993. That's the more likely outcome, but try telling that to the spark in my chest. Oh damn, it's suddenly turned into a flame. Now what the hell do I do?

No comments: