by Noel Draper

Let me get one thing absolutely clear from the outset. I love the FA Cup. I love the fact that it is the oldest football competition in the world, I love the fact that every team is treated equally and not seeded and I really love the fact that the so called ‘bigger’ teams sometimes have to slum it with the ‘smaller’ sides. Aside from the stupid sponsorship it really is a fantastic competition.

My wife, who knows about my other love and seems to be quite happy with it, did the usual thing on F.A Cup round three day, thus leaving me to enjoy two live games and a whole manner of match updates in between, free from any interruptions. Just me, some beer, a new hip flask that I needed to trial, a few snacks and a big television. What could possibly go wrong?

I started to get a few nagging doubts when a completely unnecessary opening title sequence proceeded to fill my screen. As some blurry things, they could have been footballers, whooshed and swished pointlessly around in front of me I took the opportunity to visit the fridge. They were still whooshing and swishing pointlessly in front of me when I got back.

Still, it’s the F.A Cup. Nothing could dampen my mood.

Suddenly the dour tones of a chunky midlander filled my living room. In my excitement I had forgotten about Mr Adrian Chiles. Damn. It would appear that my mood had indeed been dampened. Thoughts flashed through my mind. “Could he get excited about something please?” was one of them. Another was, “How on earth does Catherine Tate put up with him?” The final one was “Ad break. Please!”

After some completely pointless and inane studio banter, kick off was fast approaching and so the talking duties switched to the very excitable Jon Champion. The nagging doubts soon loomed large again though when Mr Jolly gleefully told the viewing public that ‘some Newcastle supporter coaches had to leave at 1am to get to the match on time’.  He also happily praised the Geordie fans for filling every seat even though this was ‘possibly the furthest anyone had to travel to see a game that weekend’. Jim Beglin, as usual, contributed everything and nothing. He could have been reading out the names of everyone in the stadium as far as I was concerned because his voice is in the same range as a dog whistle.

The game went on. Brighton scored much to the delight of Mr Champion. One of the Ameobi sisters got sent off. Brighton scored again. The home fans cheered and sang. The away fans suddenly remembered where they lived and contemplated the horrible return journey. This was all a blur if I am honest. I was, at this point, seething. The nagging doubts had turned into a full blown in my head rant.

ITV Sport had ruined my favourite footballing day.

From the pointless graphics to the pathetic quality of the studio guests, it had all been a complete shambles.

It was your fault ITV that some Newcastle coaches had to leave at 1am because you picked the game to show on a Saturday lunchtime. I bet they loved you for that. Making a group of fans travel nearly 700 miles because you wanted to show this game instead of another more attractive one in terms of giant killing like Crawley versus Reading. It was your fault ITV for then picking West Ham against Manchester United as your late game. This was plainly about ratings rather than the fans again seeing as you could have had picked Luton at home to Wolves. Or Peterborough against Norwich or any other game with local interest and/or giant killing potential. It was your fault as well for putting a highlights show on at 11pm. I’m sure that the nations parents were extremely happy with that decision as they were every time you mentioned the sponsors.

It was, in short, your fault for ruining my day ITV Sport. I will never forget this. Never.

There was, however, one shining light amongst all the doom and gloom and it was this…

Hip Flasks are brilliant.