Updated: Jan 9, 2019
The magic of the FA Cup is one that many football fans talk about extremely fondly. The oldest cup competition in Europe has had so many magical moments and for the neutral many fantastic upsets along its way.
When we talk about the domestic cups now in England it seems like it is an opportunity for the clubs in the Premier League and even the top teams in the Championship to rotate the squad and have a look at players perhaps on the outskirts of the first team squad or promising youngsters coming through the ranks.
What has happened to teams attacking the cup, wanting to bring the prestige of winning a trophy and medals to add to the history of the clubs or players wanting to count the medal collection when they retire rather than the money in the bank.
The FA Cup 3rd round matches took place all over the weekend and all at various times, this for one has took away from fans, punters and the media interest from covering these games.
TV Rights have taken the air of enthusiasm away from people at this stage of the competition. Show the matches yes, but why have a handful of games early on the Saturday, more at 3 o’clock, then another handful alongside the televised match later on in the afternoon. This makes it much harder for fans to keep up to date with all the scores that are happening on the Saturday and Sunday.
Supporters of some Premier League clubs must watch their team when it comes to the FA Cup with a sense of disappointment and confusion. The money in the Premier League is extortionately high which allows even clubs who struggle with relegation and with mid table ambitions to have extremely large squads, this in turn has managers using the competition as a springboard to give some squad players minutes on the pitch, and to almost see how far the fringe players can get them before introducing the more established, the starting eleven players into the team in a hope to win the competition.
When it came to this weekend with 3rd round games, there was 4 Premier League clubs that made a swift exit from the competition, 2 clubs that are in a relegation fight, Fulham and Huddersfield, 1 team from playing another Premier League club in Bournemouth, and Leicester City who have no worries of relegation as they sit 7th in the Premier League. With Newcastle who historically do not emphasize a cup run and Southampton both being taken to replays.
The major question for fans of Bournemouth and Leicester should be why were we not fielding are strongest possible line-ups, or at least several more of the ‘better’ players. Bournemouth are coming off the back of a very poor festive period, this would have been a massive opportunity to gain momentum and a cup run would have brought the confidence back among the players.
Leicester were guilty of the same approach in the Carabao Cup defeat at the hands of Manchester City, making a host a changes and despite drawing the game if they had of attacked the competition, playing the likes of Maddison from the start they could have potentially been playing Burton in the semi-final of the competition.
The clubs in the Premier League now are focused on what can bring in the most money, staying in the Premier League is obviously worth more in the long term than success in the FA Cup, but what about spirit and getting confidence among the players, Fulham especially had a fantastic opportunity to push on and build a platform for positive results, now after getting beat by league 2 Oldham at home the club will be a real downer, fans wondering if they have enough to really make a fight to stay in the Premier division.
The fans of Newcastle need a lift, something to feel positive about in terms of the season ahead, they now face an extremely difficult fixture at Ewood Park against a Blackburn team that should have knocked the Magpies out of the competition completely, yet again. The fans of these clubs need to feel the optimism at the clubs, in the cup you need a bit of luck to get far, and get the right draws, but who is to say if a Newcastle drew a top six team that the top six team play a full strength eleven? Then there is a perfect opportunity to progress to the latter stages of the competition.
The giant killings of the FA Cup is what draws the most anticipation and has the historic memories for most when we talk about the prestige of the FA Cup. The atmosphere last night at Rodney Parade from the start there was a sense of we can win this, Newport fully deserved their victory over previous Premier League winners Leicester City. The talk about the quality of some of the players was relentless, then we remember these are league 2 footballers earning considerably less than even the back-up Leicester City players.
Barnet beating high flying Sheffield United of the Championship is a result looking at the weekend results that must be considered a giant killing, and the boos around Bramall Lane at the final whistle showed the fans displeasure of the lackluster display on such an occasion, especially knowing the history the club has with the competition. These results still happen, last season saw Lincoln City then of the National League put out a Burnley team that were flying high in the Premier League.
These lower league clubs put so much into the competition, even in the qualifying rounds that it can be hard to see clubs using the cup as an experiment tool. The lure of testing themselves against the best clubs in the country, managers wanting to show their own credentials against perhaps managers that they look up to.
The TV money should they get it and from progressing is obviously fantastic for them, but watching that Newport performance against Leicester, a club who would benefit greatly from the money they will receive, the players looked like they wanted to showcase their ability, they played with a fight, a hunger to work together and show their fans that they care for the club. That is what can be great about these cups in the cup, fans who do not follow or watch lower league games can become familiar with the players, almost find a second club, where they enjoying watching them, can become embroiled with this and want to feel apart of it, all these factors can enlighten and enhance clubs from the bottom tiers.
Previous clubs among the Premier League have shown what can be done in the competition, should they take it seriously and try and have a go at winning the competition. In 2008 Harry Redknapp won the cup with his Portsmouth team, Wigan in 2013 beat the odds to overcome an extremely strong Manchester City team to lift the trophy.
Only 3 teams in the last twenty five years have had the glory of winning the FA Cup outside of the top six in the Premier League, the other team was Everton back in 1995.
The top clubs Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have all tasted success during this time, teams wanting to have extra success, so they make the FA Cup a priority of the team once they reach the latter stages of the competition. Everton should be one of the clubs looking to use the cup this year as a platform to build on in terms of winning a trophy.
The feel good factor at the club would be enormous, especially after the last few years which has seen many Everton fans become disgruntled at the club they support. The debate of finishing in the top four or winning the FA Cup, what is more important to Tottenham Hotspurs?
Well they should finish in the top four this season given their current position , but how good was it to see Mauricio Pochettino line up with Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Harry Kane coming of the bench at Prenton Park, a real sign that he is in a trophy hunt this season.
The FA Cup is one that needs to be reviewed, not in terms of what the FA can change with it but by clubs among the Premier League and how they prioritize it. Could they integrate a system that would stop clubs making wholesale changes to line-ups? We want to still have the moments of giant killing in the competition, so getting rid of replays is not the answer especially for the clubs lower down in the divisions who can benefit greatly from the financial gain.
As a fan it would be great to see everybody taking the competition seriously and looking forward to FA Cup weekends rather than almost turning a blind eye to this. Having the majority of games on the Saturday 3 o’clock kick off time would bring back an atmosphere, with obviously a few televised games along the way.