As we approach the FA Cup 4th Round we have noticed lots of press comments again about how the Cup is not what it used to be and how a lot of clubs aren’t really bothered. For example, there was an article by Paul Scholes, just before the 3rd Round, bemoaning “what has changed”. He argued that top players and fans no longer value a Wembley appearance because they played in big grounds all over the world and that mid table Premiership clubs often pick understrength teams for the FA Cup, even though they have not won a trophy for years. The inference was that they were more interested in Premiership survival than Cup glory.
This may be true of the odd club like Newcastle (Mike Ashley is a business man first and last) but I don’t hold the view that interest has waned across the board. A quick look at the last 12 years reveals that yes, 10 of the winners have come from the top 5 clubs. That tells me that the big clubs value the trophy and, as they were sell-out crowds, their fans do to. Nobody can deny the joy and relief of everyone connected to Arsenal when the trophy was lifted last year.
But looking at the losing teams in the those 12 years, there were only 3 occasions when they were also a top 5 club. The rest were usually teams from the mid to lower half of the Premiership which, again, says to me that they really do care. Hull, Portsmouth, Stoke, Everton, Southampton played their hearts out to get to Wembley and it was the biggest day out of their footballing lives for an awful lot of players and fans. Wigan are in a tight spot at present but I would love to know from their supporters whether they would have preferred to lose the FA Cup but stay in the Premiership? After all, beating the billionaires of Manchester City to have your name inscribed in history can never, ever be taken away from you.
And that’s what it’s all about. Tell Cardiff and Millwall that they only got to the Final as Championship sides because bigger teams couldn’t be bothered – I don’t think so. It’s that chance to show you can play at the next level, the chance to play out of your skin for once in your career, the chance to show you are a team above anything else. Look at some of the performances so far in this competition. Sean Geddes’s goal for Worcester City would have graced any player and any ground. Blythe Spartans’ battle with Birmingham City did the non-leaguers proud. You can’t tell me that the West Ham and Everton players weren’t interested when they could only be separated on the 18th penalty after two hard fought draws.
I do think we should say a huge thank you to the BBC this year. Having won the rights back to show the FA Cup matches they have really bigged it up and given it the positive press treatment that it properly deserves. They are showing that it is a competition that means an awful lot to many, many people. It’s part of our history but it’s also part of our future.
So we think the FA Cup is alive and kicking. Tell us what you think.