Arsenal – 3/1
Chelsea – 10/3
Man United – 13/2
Crystal Palace – 13/2
Everton – 8/1
West Ham – 20/1
Watford – 50/1
Hull – 50/1
Reading – 50/1
So, take your pick, place your bet and see what happens. Strangely enough, the bookies can be uncannily accurate in some things, but when the world of football comes to town in the shape of English cup competitions, form goes goes out of the window.
You can pick up decent odds on an upset with Hull or Reading and we should bear in mind that Arsenal still have to travel to Hull for their replay, so that could go either way and not necessarily in favour of the bookies’ favourite. Looking at the remaining nine, we could see a David versus Goliath final and they are always better than two “big” teams going head-to-head.
Personally, if Arsenal go through, it’s a replay of the 1980 FA Cup final for me. The old guard and cup holders, Arsenal against an up and coming foe in the shape of West Ham. Both have got good cup pedigrees and West Ham were the last team outside of the top flight to win the cup.
When Wigan beat Manchester City in 2013, it showed that the underdogs can win on their day and the old saying of “if your names’s on the cup…” is certainly true. Like most things in life, if it’s meant for you, it won’t pass you by.
Long FA Cup winner odds occasionally come in, as shown by Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan in 2013, but it is a Premier League-dominated competition and probably always will be. The money divide will become a chasm once the new TV deal comes into play next season and so the quality between clubs in the Premier and the lower leagues will be forever
If you are a betting man, then it would be unwise to back anyone other than a Premier League team, as history over a long period of time shows that that’s where the winners ultimately come from. Maybe the days of the real underdog winning the trophy are over. Will it therefore become just an elite competition with the odd upset along the way? Will there ever be a breakaway Cup competition for the elite and one for everyone else?
That would be a shame because the FA Cup has always been a much respected competition all around the world and to dilute it in that way would be catastrophic to the meaning and value of the cup. These days, when teams put the Premier League and Europe before all else, it is refreshing to see teams like Watford, West Ham and Palace really exerting themselves and putting out full strength sides in an attempt to win elusive silverware.
For most teams, cup competitions are their only hope of any honours, as the league slips away to the teams with real money.
Crystal Palace will be looking to win the trophy for the first time. Alan Pardew has been there as a player and as a manager and their win in the previous round at White Hart Lane wasn’t just enormous because of the magnitude of the achievement or the fact that the result eliminated one of the front runners. It is also a hugely promising omen to be the team who take out Tottenham, because two of their last four conquerors in the FA Cup went on to lift the trophy.
Watford have been another of the surprise packages in the league this season and a decent cup run is also well deserved. As usual with Watford, there’s no fanfare or trumpets blarring – they go quietly and effectively about their business. Everton are much the same and very much a cup team. Never write off The Toffees – it’s time they won something, too.
So be careful where you place your bets because any of the teams can win it. It could be a salvation for one manager, a fitting end to an historic season for another, beyond their widest dreams for most and business as usual for at least two other managers.
Eventual winners this time – West Ham. Why?
Because I’m a traditionalist at heart, and it would be a fitting for them end to the Boleyn Ground era with a trophy. The Hammers don’t win much silverware, either. We all get a bit fed up with the same teams winning everything and West Ham would give hope to other up and coming teams that it’s never all about money.
Luck plays it part too, of course, and every team needs Lady Luck riding with them.
Place your bets, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.