UK & World News

  • 17 May 2014, 22:33

Arsenal's Triumph Shows FA Cup Still Matters

Walking to my seat a couple of minutes from kickoff at Wembley, I bumped into Ian Wright, with Rio Ferdinand.

"Confident?" I asked the legendary former Arsenal striker, as he gave me a hug. "Very, very confident," came the reply.

Well he was right in the end, but you wonder how confident he was after 10 minutes of an extraordinary, gut-wrenching, nerve-jangling FA Cup final.

His beloved team were 2-0 down.

No team in 48 years had recovered from such a deficit to win the cup.

Manager Arsene Wenger's embarrassingly long spell without a trophy to show for his professorial efforts looked set to enter a 10th year.

He looked wracked with tension on the touchline, his defenders stared at each other, shell-shocked.

Had Kieran Gibbs not headed the ball out from under his own bar, it would have been 3-0 and, perhaps, game over.

Wenger's regime over? Who knows?

From that highly unpromising position, Arsenal rekindled Wenger's reputation, earned a place in the record books with their 11th FA Cup victory and cemented the competition as one that still really matters, to fans and clubs alike.

With some notable exceptions, managers are once again throwing most of their strongest resources at the world's original football competition.

"I get emotional thinking about it," said extra time matchwinner Aaron Ramsey.

"It's been a long nine years for the fans, they fill the Emirates every week and this is for them."

Wenger - sometimes criticised in the early years of his Arsenal tenure for fielding weakened teams - exuded relief at the end, and took being doused in champagne by his players in great heart.

"We wanted to make history and win the game. It was the turning point in the life span of this team," he said.

Next season will show the truth of that.

For now, a final to remember and cherish.

A day when the underdog bit, but found triumph ultimately wrenched from its jaws by Arsenal players showing more character and desire than some had suspected they possessed.

A day when a group of mostly foreign stars showed they understood the importance of the FA Cup Final.

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