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Born in 1872, a child of Victorian virtue –
Contested for in peacetime ever since,
By thousands of teams from all points
Of the compass – early season meetings
In leafy suburban surroundings; nine
Months hence a pinnacle to aim for
Amidst the tedious, tiring schedule.
Or at least, that’s how it used to be…
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When names like Corinthians, Wanderers,
And the Old Boys’ clubs graced final
After final in the early years – supremely
Assured of their place in history; gifted
Amatuers who turned up and won, with ease.
Then, down came the professionals from
Distant dark towns to assert their strength;
Rosetted followers flooded the Capital.
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Traditions began; winning ribbons tied onto
The trophy – nicked once in Brum. Replays
To a finish on neutral grounds; both teams
Changed when colours clashed. Quirky,
Affectionate tests of time – the round by round
Draw on Mondays, radio only – of course.
Comforting rituals, jealously guarded by
Crusty old men on the Challenge Cup committee.
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And legends mushroomed – the White Horse
Final of ’23; the Matthews’ Final thirty years on;
Giant killing a by-word, known to everyone
As a thing particular to this special competition –
Giving a hope to lesser lights, which sometimes
Came true – Hereford forever epitomised the
Frantic, ardent ecstacy when David beat Goliath.
No more, it happens – alas; too risky by far.
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The grand old trophy is losing that shine – only a faded,
Tarnished lustre now. Replays truncated, exemptions
Granted; fans don’t turn out when it’s on the TV,
And not on the season ticket…can you blame them ?
The very organisation who’s name it bears has
Mangled the Cup’s reputation. A simple, magical
Formula loved – and used – the world over has
Run out of steam in it’s very own backyard.