It is with great regret that I learned today that the romance of the FA Cup has been brutally ended following a sustained attack by the its feckless parent the Football Association and assisted as it has been on many occasions by ITV and a newcomer, ESPN.
THE FA CUP – RIP – SADLY MURDERED TODAY
The 141 year old competition has over the years provided many great memories and if you are a Newcastle fan, many nightmares when the minnows have drawn with or beaten the big fish.
Every year there are some upsets. Just on Saturday non league Luton beat Championship side Wolves. As a Newcastle fan it pains me to recall we have lost to Hereford, Stevenage and Luton amongst others in cup upsets. Back in 1978 Blyth Spartans got to the 5th round winning away at Stoke City on the way there. Sutton beat Coventry in the 3rd round only 18 months or so after Coventry won the FA Cup.
Three years ago Leeds beat Manchester United as Bournemouth did some years ago. Arsenal lost to Wrexham in a famous upset when Mickey Thomas scored the winner.
It is these upsets and the dreaming of upsets that makes the FA Cup so special. No one expects a little side to be able to compete with the big sides over a league season, but in a one off tie, upsets happen. Even when they don’t the pitting of minnows and big fish gets people talking. Burton and Crawley in recent years got to play at Old Trafford in games that earned their clubs the money they used to propel themselves into the Football League.
The BBC for example love to show THAT Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford in 1972 against Newcastle. Those cup giant killings are what people remember.
Following this weekends 3rd round ties, there are a number of replays
VS Wigan Athletic
Arsenal VS Swansea City
Birmingham City VS Leeds United
Blackpool VS Fulham
Brentford VS Southend United
Leyton Orient VS Hull City
Manchester United VS West Ham United
Milton Keynes Dons VS Sheffield Wednesday
Stoke City VS Crystal Palace
Sunderland AFC VS Bolton Wanderers
West Bromwich Albion VS Queens Park Rangers
The highlighted games are ones where lower division sides are hosting higher division sides after already going to their bigger rivals and holding them to a draw. It would be reasonable to think that their will be realistic chances of cup upsets at these games. This is what people like to see.
All too often these days the Premiership sides put out weakened teams and some seem not interested to judge from their lack of effort in games. (Yes, Newcastle United I am looking at you after your pathetic display last Saturday at Brighton).
You can guarantee that those four sides who have the realistic chances of an upset will be putting out their full sides and be roared on by passionate fans dreaming of an upset. Surely this chance of an upset, a passionate crowd and teams desperate to win will be the sort of spectacle the TV companies want to show?
Sadly not for the 2 replayed games to be shown on TV next week are Manchester United v West Ham and Arsenal v Swansea – both all premiership ties where the host clubs really are not bothered if they progress or not. They are more interested in qualifying for the Champions League ( a misnomer if ever there was one- finish 4th in the league and get into the Champions League).
So instead of watching teams who want to win and games where there is a chance of an upset we get to watch two all premiership matches where the bigger of the teams are the home teams.
Sadly, the FA have been complicit in the gradual death of the FA Cup by allowing sides to play weakened teams and treat the competition with contempt.
Then there is the rescheduling of games for the TV. Why did the FA for example allow ITV to force Newcastle to kick off at Brighton at 12:30. There was no consideration given to those Newcastle fans wanting to attend the game. Some of the coaches left Newcastle at 1am to get to Brighton for the game. The lack of consideration for the fans is just another example of the FA helping to destroy the oldest cup competition in the world.