I have been a sucker for FA Cup finals for most of my life.
There was always something special about the biggest Saturday of the year, being glued to the TV as the cameras followed the team buses through the streets of London to the twin towers of Wembley. And then Liverpool would win, and I would be a happy camper.
Of course, as has been discussed ever since the inception of the Premier League, the FA Cup has been battling for relevancy, but that is a topic for another day, and another day after that, and then after that probably some more.
So here we are, ahead of Chelsea vs. Arsenal on Saturday – there are no more twin towers, but it is a marquee tilt that definitely feels like a match befitting the FA Cup final. I say that with much respect to recent finalists Crystal Palace, Hull City and Wigan Athletic, but to be honest for the first time since Chelsea beat Liverpool in 2012, this really feels a little bit special.
Relevancy, and big-match feel aside, Saturday’s final does feel a little like a farewell celebration for some rather big personalities on both sides of the field.
For the Blues, it does appear as if this will be Diego Costa’s final bow in Chelsea blue, ahead of a grotesquely large payday in China. The pantomime villain of the Premier League is undoubtedly of world class quality, and has had many big moments England, but frankly I am glad to see the back of him. Too much of what he brought to the table was abhorrent and distasteful. The devil in me does wish he had actually unleashed the fire extinguisher on the waiting media at the Hawthornes, though.
John Terry had his goodbye last week at Stamford Bridge, personally planning a 26th (or was it 27th?) minute exit. Still, will he get on for a few minutes late in the match if the Blues have it in hand? Either way I dare say he will be front and centre, shin-pads and all, to lift the trophy in a Chelsea win.
As for the Gunners, entering as the underdog might play into their hands, but the over-arching narrative is who will be playing his last match for Arsenal? Alexis Sanchez has even less motivation to sign a new deal with the absence of Champions League soccer, although you can bet the Chilean will be giving everything to win a trophy. Despite his poor body language in recent months you cannot question the effort.
Mesut Ozil, however? Could he also be on his way out?
Arsene Wenger’s future will be ironed out over the next week or so. He says that he still believes his current core of players can win a Premier League title, and that alone should cause shivers down the spines of the proletariat. But maybe, just maybe, this will be the Frenchman’s swan song.
Questions, farewells, and maybe a double for Chelsea. That is why Saturday is must watch for football fans. Forget about the clichéd ridden anti-FA Cup narrative, and just enjoy a big day at Wembley.