The 60 Million Pound Final

This weekend is the FA Cup final. The final is already being promoted as a fairytale clash between the Premiership champions and last placed Portsmouth – who are 135 million pounds in debt. For me, the FA Cup final is a foregone conclusion. Chelsea will win it and claim their first domestic double. Portsmouth will start next season in the Championship and will inevitably struggle not to get relegated again.

The more interesting game that will take place at Wembley is the Championship Play-Off final between Cardiff City and Blackpool. Neither club has ever played Premiership football and at the start of the season no-one would have predicted that either club would be on the verge of doing so.

Blackpool is England’s equivalent to the New Jersey shore – but a lot worse. It has terrible hotels and guest houses. The restaurants are dank, the clubs are crass, the weather is dreary and the food is awful. It’s where the northern Chavs of Britain go to get laid or have their Stag Night. Add the Blackpool Tower, an old roller-coaster, a Ferris Wheel and a sandy beach and you’ve got the Holiday Hellhole of England.

Blackpool used to be a powerhouse in English football. Back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s – when Britain still considered itself a world power – Blackpool appeared in six FA Cup finals – winners in 1953 – and came close to being League Champions on several occasions. They also supplied the England national team with several players during that time including Stanley Matthews. However, Blackpool haven’t played in England’s top division since 1971 and until today have never looked likely to.

Blackpool playing in the Premiership is still unthinkable. Back in 2007 they were playing in Division One where they won automatic promotion to the Championship with current Leeds boss Simon Grayson. The 2007/08 season was the first time Blackpool had played in the second tier of English football for 29 years.

Blackpool has been run by the Oyston family since 1987 when property tycoon Owen Oyston bought a majority share in the club after selling his real estate business for 37 million pounds. In May 1996, Oyston was convicted of rape and given a six year sentence. In his absence, his son Karl was appointed Chairman and still holds that position today.

Blackpool have an average attendance of 8,000 with a ground capacity of 12,555 but they are redeveloping their Bloomfield Road ground to 16,000. Rumors persist that their redevelopment will not be ready in time for the start of the new Premiership season and that Blackpool will have to play their home games at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium. This is also due to problems with their floodlights and small press facilities.

Cardiff City have no such problems with their new stadium. Opened in July 2009 at a cost of 48 million pounds and with a capacity of nearly 27,000 it is regarded as one of the best stadiums in the Championship. The downside about their stadium is that they share it with Cardiff Rugby League Club, making the pitch bumpy in the latter stages of the season.

Cardiff will be favorites going into the Play-Off Final. Last season, they only just missed out on the play-offs and played in the 2008 FA Cup final losing 1-0 to Portsmouth. Cardiff were last in the top flight back in 1962.

Earlier this year, Cardiff faced a winding up order at the High Court for an unpaid 2.7 million pounds tax bill. The club are still in debt and badly need the 60 million pounds gained from winning the Play-Off final.

That’s what is at stake in this final – 60 million pounds.

It’s all or nothing, do or die and makes you grateful that Arsenal never have to worry about this kind of headache.

Keep It Arsenal

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