Thursday 19 October 2017

Owen: The FA Cup Final was the best day of my career

'It was by far the best day of my career, the game I look back on more than any other as the most exhilarating experience I ever had playing football.' Photo: GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images
'It was by far the best day of my career, the game I look back on more than any other as the most exhilarating experience I ever had playing football.' Photo: GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Owen

I am in the process of building a memorabilia room in my house, a place to display all the souvenirs from my career.

There are plenty of medals – my England caps and jerseys and the collection of shirts from the biggest club games in which I played, but there is one image that will take pride of place – the photo of me lifting the FA Cup in 2001, when Liverpool beat Arsenal and I scored two late goals.

It was by far the best day of my career, the game I look back on more than any other as the most exhilarating experience I ever had playing football.

You can list all your personal achievements and recall them with pride, such as playing for England, winning a European trophy and being part of a Premier League-winning squad, but nothing can ever beat the sheer joy of holding the FA Cup, the competition I dreamed of winning from the moment I started to kick a ball.

The FA Cup final offered the instant adrenalin rush I would have loved to experience over and over again.

Even though I understand the clubs take a different view, I would never swap that medal for coming fourth for a couple of seasons. Not a chance.

I never felt the same intense feeling of euphoria in scoring as I did when I beat David Seaman in Cardiff 13 years ago.

For Arsenal and Hull players, today offers the opportunity for that career-defining moment – to score the goal, make the save or last-minute tackle that they will replay in their minds (and on TV) for the rest of their lives.

For the fans, what is better than a trip to Wembley for the Cup final? It is why you follow your side home and away for all those years.

Many of us have been brainwashed into thinking the FA Cup does not matter as much as it used to.

When the Arsenal and Hull players are in the tunnel shortly before kick-off, there will be players across the country in a state of envy and regret, desperately wishing they were in the same position and wishing their manager had taken the competition more seriously.

The Premier League and Champions League have taken on much more importance in the last 10 to 20 years, the status and financial implications of success in the league and in Europe mean the FA Cup has become third in the priority list.

It has been a refreshing departure to see Steve Bruce prepared to sacrifice league points to focus on the Cup final.

I am sure had his side gone out of the FA Cup they would have finished higher in the Premier League.

No-one will be complaining if they are on an open-top bus tour tomorrow.

Bruce must be one of the most underrated managers around. Wherever he has been, he seems to have done a good job.

If Arsenal win, it will transform a decent season into an excellent one. To come fourth and win the FA Cup is as much as I would have expected from Arsene Wenger's side. I took a fair bit of abuse for suggesting they faced a fight to make the top four at a time they were six points clear at the top, so feel a degree of vindication.

I have no doubt that if the Arsenal players are celebrating at full-time, it will feel so much better than securing fourth place.

It is very pleasing that one FA Cup tradition has been restored this season. Playing the final after the conclusion of the league season should be compulsory.

When I was a schoolboy, FA Cup final day was the date in the diary you looked out for when the fixture list came out. You did not make any plans on Cup final day.

Maybe we will never get that back, but one thing will never change. The feelings of elation for the winners – the supporters, the players and all their families – will be as strong now as ever. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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