Chelsea, Portsmouth and the FA Cup’s blue magic


Top versus bottom. The super-rich and the paupers. Worlds apart, the Two Blues of this weekend’s FA Cup Final, Chelsea and Portsmouth, will surely produce a game that remains true to form and shows that the faded old competition isn’t really a great leveller after all. Colin Randall gets Salut! Sunderland’s Wembley build-up underway but return on Thursday and Friday for the fans’ views …


The Two Blues, if you grew up in the County Durham of which Sunderland was part, were Bishop Auckland.

They were the kings of amateur football and there was a time, when they had the ultimate showman goalkeeper in Harry Sharratt and such stalwarts as Bob Hardisty and Derek Lewin, that it seemed they were hardly ever away from Wembley.

In 1955, their FA Amateur Cup Final victory over Hendon drew a 100,000 crowd. One of the medal winners, Seamus O’Connell, had also scored a hat-trick on his debut in a Chelsea side that won that season’s top fight championship (Sunderland coming fourth), if the historical references I have seen are correct.

Those days and that Wembley have gone. On Saturday, the two blues from either end of the Premier table, one scoring the goals in the sort of numbers the other gets deducted in points, meet for an improbable decider of the 2010 FA Cup.

Salut! Sunderland has no special axe to grind. We were dumped out of the cup by Portsmouth, and managed only two draws against them in the league. Chelsea burst our early season bubble by beating us 3-1 at the Stadium of Light. Then they tonked us 7-2 at home.

But that last result puts us firmly at the top of a mini-league of our own – teams who conceded at least seven at Stamford Bridge. Sunderland won that honour courtesy of the only test: goal difference. Ours being -5, thanks to Darren Bent and Bolo Zenden, has us ahead of Aston Vila (-1), Stoke City (-7) and Wigan Athletic (-8).

Saturday? Stand by to hear from Chelsea and Pompey-supporting visitors to Salut! Sunderland later in the week.

The heart says Pompey 1 Chelsea 0, with a 31st minute winner from the Scottish midfielder Richard Hughes, a breathtaking double save by David James midway through the second half and a pitchlong dash at the end by a Trilby-wearing Avram Grant to embrace his keeper.

The head says Drogba (3) Anelka (2), Lampard, Kalou and A Cole.

* with thanks to the Flickr pages of Free-ers for the Chelsea image and david.nikonvscanon for the Pompey Royal. And British Pathe for the 1955 amateur cup final (click on the frame to see the highlights).

* NB: a recent deluge of spam means comments from people who have not been this way and posted before will have to await moderation. Sorry.

12 thoughts on “Chelsea, Portsmouth and the FA Cup’s blue magic”

  1. Such gloom! Come on lads, cheer up! Okay, okay, I’m a Chelsea fan and it’s easy to be smug at the moment, you could argue. But having stood on the Shed and seen Wigan humble us 1-0 in the FA Cup in 1980 when they were in the old Fourth Division, and us in the First, I take nothing for granted. If you want to criticise the modern game and are looking for faults, you’ll find them, but take those rose-tinted specs off for a moment, and you might just see something else. Of course I want the Blues to win, but that football-lover in me could almost stomach Pompey victory, if only to prove to the cynics that this beautiful game can still spring a surprise.

  2. Thanks Bill – don’t think I have. I’ll seek it out next time I’m ‘home’ – doubt they’ll have it in Thurrock Lakeside.
    Thanks Jeremy! Chiquita was a song by Abba I believe. Sad or what. That’s age for you.

  3. Geoff

    It’s Rene Heguita the Colombian keeper that you are thinking of. he was a one off, but that’s while ago now. What about Jose Luis Chilavert (on the subject of Paraguayans), the keeper who takes free kicks and penalties?

  4. Have you read “Glory Days,” Geoff — Alan Adamthwaite’s lovely history of the Bishops? It’s worth seeking out.
    I remember Sharrat insisting on taking a free kick once, well up the field. The Bishops lost possession and he had to run like hell to get back to his goal.

  5. No problem wih the chimes ,powered by pompey, it’s that incessant drumming I can’t stand. Should be banned in football grounds.
    Genuinely hope you survive, but fear the debts are far too heavy.

  6. I remember the Cup Final Saturdays when I used to wonder what sort of people would be shopping in Newgate St (Bish) between 11am and 5.30pm. Now, I don’t care and can’t remember the last one I stayed in to watch.
    Great to see Harry Sharrat;s name mentioned. My dad used to take me to Kingsway in the ’50s and I clearly remember some amazing stories surrounding my all-time football hero (in my first Essex school, there was a girl called Kelly Sharratt who never worked out why I always called her Harry).
    These stories revolve around the fact that the team were so dominant that Harry would get bored at his lack of action. In one game, he disappeared and was finally spotted in the crowd behind the goal reading a paper. One snowy game, he had a snowball fight with fans and even better, in another game, he made the most of a rare bit of possession by throwing the ball against the crossbar and catching it.
    Footballers are so boring now – with the exception of Chiquita? (sic) and his brilliant donkey kick off the line at Wembley – Harry would have been so proud.

  7. “Chelsea will walk it and hopefully the Pompey Drum will be no more.”

    The ‘Pompey drum’ doesn’t exist.

    But the Pompey chimes will never die. I promise you that.

  8. The last FA Cup Final I attended was in 1993, the year after our last appearance to see Sheff Wed against Arsenal in a 0-0 bore draw, It was possibly the worst cup final I’ve ever seen, but was still disappointed when Wednesday lost the replay later in the week. I’ve not had the same interest in the competition since.

  9. I cannot remember any cup final in recent times which has made me change other plans, or seek the traditional pass out, to watch. I even have a shameful story of having an unwanted ticket for Leeds v Chelsea three years before our own glory, hitching down to London to use it and then feeling disappointed that no one in the West End the night before would rise to my bait and offer to take it off my hands.

    Truth told,I want Pompey to win, expect a Chelsea win by at least three goals but might not remember to check the result until Sunday.

  10. Not unlike the Sixer my interest in the FA Cup started to wane several years ago when Millwall reached the final to play Chelsea. A weekend’s camping with the wife and kids held far more appeal. I’ve missed a couple since then too, including the recent Pompey victory. The game of football needs a fairy tale and so do real fans of the game. I’ve had a sense that Portsmouth will win this one against all the odds. Or maybe it is just a faint hope that the magic of what was the greatest cup of them all will be restored. I sincerely bloody hope so!

  11. Bishop’s glory days were also the days when the likes of Bob Hardisty and Seamus O’Connell couldn’t afford — or so legend has it — to turn professional. There was a cap on pro footballers’ salaries but no such limit on the cash that was passed under the table to top-flight “amateurs” or stuffed into the toe of their boot. Back then, Bishop was the Chelsea of amateur football.
    I’d love to see Portsmouth pull a miracle out of the bag, but a miracle is what it would be.
    On another topic, I see Zola’s gone already. No surprise there except, perhaps, for the speed of execution.

  12. I have not seen an FA Cup Final since 1996. When Middlesbrough got to Wembley in 1997, I realised that the competition was finished and went to watch Hibs play Airdrie instead. Since then I have visited Scotland on a regular basis and have been to games in Barrhead,Linlithgow, Annan, Musselburgh, Dunbar, Camelon, Livingstone, Bathgate No More and this week I hope to be heading for Bo’ness.
    Chelsea will walk it and hopefully the Pompey Drum will be no more.
    Scots Wa Hae!!!

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