The Eton squad had the honour of taking on Charterhouse for the title of ISFA Cup Champions. This match saw Eton with the chance to return to the heights of the Old Etonians of 1875 and 1883 who won the famous FA Cup. Up against them were a school steeped in footballing tradition that made for a compelling spectacle for all involved.
As a match, the Cup Final was a war of attrition, with little room for individual creativity. But, like any final, it had a special meaning for all those involved, even if it did not make a ripple on the world stage. The legends were out in force. Former referee, David Elleray, (a former Harrow schoolmaster) attended as President of ISFA. In the stands, were England legend, Gary Lineker and ex-Arsenal player and Eton parent, Paul Davis. Officiating was Premier League referee, Mr Martin Atkinson. It was perhaps inevitable, before such an exalted audience, that Harry Lineker would eventually score. Both sides brought enthusiastic fans, willing to resort to hymns when their repertoire of witty chants ended. And yet with the stage set for a game to remember, someone forgot to light the fuse. The game fizzled out and Charterhouse did not really have to show much to end as victors. Like the Arsenal in Spain earlier in the week, they upheld the finest sporting traditions by being determined to finish second. Perhaps success would have been just a little too vulgar.
The stadium, the home of MK Dons FC, proved a fitting and atmospheric venue. One forgets that this is only a League One club, albeit with its infamous connection to Wimbledon FC and with ‘the Guvnor’ Ince at the helm. A phenomenal design and a ground capacity fit for a larger club, this stadium looks like it will have to wait to display its full potential. The lack of seating in the upper tier serves as a reminder that the beautiful game is less popular further down the football league.
On the pitch, the sides were evenly matched. Mr Atkinson oozed experience and must have missed the Premier league’s gamesmanship, its professional fouls, its backchat, its diving, its shirt-pulling, its swearing in 27 languages, the crowd doubting Mr Atkinson’s paternity and Match of the Day’s slow-mo analysis of his mistakes.
Jo Morris played sublimely at the back for Eton, with vital interceptions and crucial clearances. Yet not even Henri Ashe-Taylor could offer a moment of magic and Eton failed to create enough clear-cut chances. Fair play to Charterhouse, they capitalised on their chances and won the game because of it. Lineker used an inherited striker’s instinct to register a perfect header, after having been a spectator throughout. Charterhouse’s second resulted from sloppy defending and after that went in, the Cup was won.
Overall, Eton were a little starry-eyed throughout, perhaps the team’s performance suffered from the magnitude of the occasion? But the players ought to be proud to have reached a final. They were victors in every way apart from the score-line.
Anthony Beaumont (JDN)