• Beth Pritchard

A Season with the FA Young Reporters

Writing for the Young Reporters' Club, at the start of the season I shivered in the cold for 90 minutes at Cleethorpes. The same goes for Gainsborough, Nettleham Ladies and Lincoln City youth games.

I had goosebumps for a whole different reason at the end of the season.

As a Manchester United fan, my heart dropped when the final whistle at Molineux blew back in March, and Wolves were the team to progress in the 2019 Emirates FA Cup competition.

It hurt all the more because I knew I was going to be at the Final for the first time, thanks to the Young Reporters Club, and the hope of seeing my team there had evaporated.

Yet when it came to it, I thoroughly enjoyed being at both the Women's and Men's FA Cup Finals at Wembley.

Manchester City fans were ecstatic. Photo: The FA.

I truly learned that you don't need to support a team to understand and enjoy the passion people feel for them. You can appreciate quality football even when it isn’t ‘your’ team playing (in fact without the pressure to see a win, you can relax and enjoy the game for itself).

Being a United fan at the men's Final featuring Manchester City wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. I could feel the passion radiating from the fans around me. I felt the same when looking at the Watford fans waving their flags, regardless of the fact they were 6-0 down.

Tens of thousands of people singing Wonderwall was enough to give me goosebumps. I think the fans’ passion was my favourite part of the experience.

The game itself turned out to be rather one-sided and as a result lacked the tension felt when teams have the same quality of play.

I learned at the two Finals that, in a stadium full of enthusiastic fans, it's impossible to remain neutral. I found myself backing Watford yesterday to the point I felt deflated at their defeat.

When Kevin De Bruyne came on and scored City's third goal, seeing some of the Watford players falling to the floor was heartbreaking. At that point, even they knew the game was as good as over.

I had firmly believed that the Hornets were in with a chance of pulling the game back when the teams came out for the second half. However, the addition of De Bruyne in place of Riyad Mahrez was pivotal in taking that sense of hope away.

From the hour mark onwards, City's level of play just felt like kicking their opponents while they were down. The 26 minutes featuring goals from De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, and a brace from Raheem Sterling must’ve been tough to watch for those thousands of Watford fans celebrating their team's first trip to the final in 35 years.

The Watford fans continued to wave their flags and cheer on the team, a really heart-warming sight. However, there's only so much the ‘twelfth man’ can do when the most important 11 are struggling against the team currently dominating English football.

Watford fans remained enthusiastic until the final whistle.

I am really grateful I got to experience this day, indeed both FA Cup Finals. I appreciate that someone recognised my interest in sports journalism, and football in particular, and recommended me for the FA Young Reporters' Club, which has given me the chance to get more work published, see some incredible games at all levels and even get my name up in lights at the Emirates FA Cup Final.

(Published: http://www.thefa.com/news/2019/may/19/beth-pritchard-yrc-fa-cup-final-report-190519)

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