For the FA Cup we welcome back Man City blogger Alex Timperley. He talks with Dan Brigham about why the FA Cup means more than the Champions League, what it feels like to win it, the odd booing of Raheem Sterling and Saturday’s match
Dan: Hi Alex. First off, a big thanks to Man City for providing one of the great FA Cup moments of the last couple of decades when they let Ben Watson sneak in at the near post in the 90th minute to score the winner for Wigan in the 2013 final.
Secondly, do you give a shit about the FA Cup?
Alex: Hi Dan, Thanks loads for reminding me about such a terrible occasion... We all knew that was going in as soon as he stepped up. Anyway, moving on! Yes, I do give a shit about the FA Cup. Absolutely love it and have generally cared about it more than, for instance, the Champions League. As a kid growing up I always wanted us to win it and that feeling has never left me.
Some of our best moments of recent years have come seeing City at Wembley and I am beyond eager for more of those!
Dan: Wow, that's pretty interesting – and pretty cool – to hear that it means more than the Champions League. How does winning the FA Cup in 2011 compare to winning the Premier League title in stoppage time in 2011-12?
Norwich's record in the FA Cup is utterly dreadful. Since getting to the semis in 1992, we've got to the fifth round four times and no further. So we're craving a Cup run.
We've never got to the final – we've had three semi-final appearances – so, tell us something no Norwich fan knows: what's it like playing in an FA Cup final, and what it's like actually winning the thing? That 2011 win – when you beat Stoke 1-0 – was your first FA Cup win since 1969, so it must've been pretty special (even if it was a dreadful game).
Alex: It kind of goes back to what I said previously. When watching City though my youth I never dreamed about City winning the Champions League, I just wanted City to not be rubbish. The Premier League was the limit of my imaginings really; the Champions League never really featured. The Premier League is still the one I want the most, followed by the FA Cup. These are just my personal preferences of course but I think if you lose your wonder at winning domestic cups then the end won't be long… The Champions League would be nice but I'm still all about the Premier League.
Playing at Wembley in an FA Cup final is the best feeling. Everything about it is great. Travelling to the stadium, walking up to the gates, getting a programme, seeing half of Wembley filled with your fans, the team coming out… it's hackneyed and mawkish but it's great. The FA Cup day out against Stoke ended up with our first trophy in decades so I refute your assertion that it was a dreadful game!
Winning the Premier League that first time round will never be beaten but the FA Cup win has it's own unique place as well.
Dan: The closest we've got to that feeling as Norwich fans in our history is winning the Milk Cup (google it, kids) but I guess the feeling of winning the Play-off final at Wembley is the closest we've got to it over the last 30 years. I know it's probably pretty small-fry to a Man City fan (these days, anyway) but to walk up Wembley Way in a sea of green and yellow, see half of Wembley in those colours and then to win so well was just amazing.
I remember the number of conversations after that game about “wouldn't it be great if we had a Cup run and got back to Wembley”. Some poor teams have got to the final in the last decade – Villa, Hull, Wigan (sorry), Portsmouth, Cardiff, Millwall – so it's not beyond the realms of possibility we could be the next poor team to get there.
So it's weird that, now, I'm not at all excited for Saturday. The romance of the Cup hasn't struck me yet. And I know I'm not the only Norwich fan thinking that because Carrow Road is far from sold out for the game, which is incredibly rare for us. I guess it's the expectation that both teams will field weakened XIs and that Wembley seems an awful way off. If Norwich could just skip straight to the quarter-finals, then I'd be excited!
Does the fact that it's pretty inevitable Man City won't field their strongest XI take someone of the magic – to use a cliché – away for you?
Alex: Stuff like that isn't small fry to any City fan I know. We all still love it and don't ever want to reach the point Man United did where they thought chasing international glory/advertising opportunities was more important than domestic glory. It's insulting to the fans, it's insulting to other clubs, it misses the entire point of football. There are, unfortunately, signs that City are heading that way but we are not there yet and there is a strong appetite among the fans to stop that from ever happening.
I don't see how it's out of the question for Norwich to get there but the other teams you mentioned got a kind draw at one point or another. Even with the form we are in being drawn against us doesn't count as kind… Maybe seeing our players turn in a 5/10 performance days after we were beaten by Everton away will help you believe and spark that cup romance again…!
I would like to see us rest David Silva and Yaya Touré. They need a break and with the replacements we have – particularly for Silva – no one could accuse us for disrespecting the FA Cup by doing so. I would also like to see Joe Hart in goal but that won't happen as Willy Caballero will be given another cup run out. Other than that, City will probably play a full-strength side. Manuel Pellegrini has many, many faults but he's pretty much always given the cups a fair shot. That in addition to this being his last season in Manchester – Pep Guardiola or no Guardiola – he will be desperate to go out on a high. City are fighting to win on four fronts this season and we won't be throwing the FA Cup.
I would be amazed if anything which could be described as a truly weakened team was sent out this weekend.
Dan: Gulp. Forget about the romance of the Cup, now I have the terror of the Cup. Having said that, we did pretty well at your place a couple of months ago before that John Ruddy howler. He's since been dropped, but I guess he may well play in the Cup. Our home form is also good – unbeaten in five with three wins and two draws against Arsenal and Everton – so if Norwich take it seriously we could be in for a fun game.
I saw your League Cup semi against Everton on Wednesday, and although Touré got a lot of stick it did seem that Silva was getting away without much criticism. Both of them looked utterly spent.
So if they are both unlikely to play tell us a little bit about who might replace them? I'm guessing it probably won't be young local lads from the academy…
Alex: The Yaya Touré thing winds me up to an almost unbelievable degree. There is a not insignificant minority of City fans who have taken to scapegoating him for everything and calling him "lazy" against all available evidence. Touré is easily one of our best, most consistent players we have but he is just not given any leeway at all. You bring up Silva's recent poor performances, absolutely correctly. Silva gets away with it to a far greater degree. As my friend put it on twitter...
People criticise Wilfried Bony to a far greater degree than Sergio Agüero which I can understand. Aguüro has credit built up among City fans which Bony does not. However in no way can that be applied to Touré, the man who you could make a good case for being the one who dragged City into the higher echelons of the game. It's nonsense and I don't like it.
It would be good for both Silva and Touré to be rested this weekend. Silva would be replaced by Raheem Sterling. The midfield three without Touré is Fernando, Fernandinho and Fabian Delph.
And no, neither will be replaced by academy lads as none of the academy lads in their positions are yet up to the required standard to just step in. Up top our third-choice striker is an academy lad because he's up to scratch. The young lads who potentially will step into Silva’s and Touré's positions in the future aren't there yet but they are coming along - for instance, Manu García who came on and scored his first senior goal for City in the league Cup earlier this season.
Dan: Yeh, there does seem to be something ugly about the criticism directed at Touré. It might not be a millions miles away from the utterly mindless booing of Sterling from some neutral fans, which has taken the absurdity of booing onto whole new levels. Really hope there's none of that at Carrow Road on Saturday – I suspect there won't be.
Ok, let's wrap up with a score prediction for Saturday. How'd you see it going?
Alex: Haha yeah I've been prodding around the edges of the "ugliness" directed at Touré and Sterling for a while. I don't think it's out-and-out racism but the coincidences about who gets outsized criticism doesn’t half add up… The booing of Sterling around the country in particular is especially idiotic. I hope you are correct and your fans don't add to it. It's a bad look.
I’m honestly not sure what the score will be. I'd like to think City will win but my hope is at a low ebb recently. I would rather lose than have a replay at the moment. I'll go for a narrow 2-1 win for Norwich.
Dan: I think Sterling is brilliant for English football – he could turn out to be an England great, and yet some morons still boo him because he wanted to further his career, win trophies and – shock, horror – earn more money. How dare he!
I think that’s the first time all season someone’s predicted a loss for their side in these previews! But I’m going 2-2 tomorrow. Reckon it’ll be entertaining, with some slapstick defending and both teams ending up with a replay neither want.
You can follow Alex at @Alex_TIMP. He writes for Typical City, which you can follow at @TypicalCity. Typical City is funded by the readers via their Patreon page. If you fancy extending a bit of footballing goodwill from Norfolk to Lancashire, you can fund them with just $1 a month so they can continue to operate.