still up for the cup?

Well it’s the 3rd round of the FA Cup today, the classic round where footballing minnows come up against the mighty. Results are just coming in but I’m not as excited by the whole thing as in previous years. I really do think the Cup has lost some of its magic in recent times. It wasn’t surprising to hear Reading’s Dave Kitson saying he couldn’t really give two sh*ts about today’s Cup fixture against Spurs on the grounds that Premiership points are more important. Umm.

What seems to have happened is that for Premiership clubs survival is everything and the dream is Champions League qualification and its massive revenues. Everything else is just a side-show. For Championship sides the dream is promotion to the Premiership and its huge revenues. If you were to ask virtually every Premiership Chairman and manager beneath the big 4 sides which they’d prefer 3 more points or another Cup match I’m pretty sure they’d say the former. Even for the sides who are pretty much safe from relegation they’d probably think similarly. Ask Man City which they’d prefer, qualification for the Champions League in 4th place or a brilliant FA Cup Final victory and I wonder what the Board and management would opt for? 4th place I’d reckon.

So most of the Premiership sides can’t be bothered. Those that are, ironically but unsurprisingly really, are the top 4 sides. They have big enough squads to rest key players and yet still get through to the final stages with ease. The FA Cup is virtually a guaranteed return for one of them now. When was the last time someone from outside the big 4 won the Cup. Have a guess. It was Everton in 1995. The last unfancied winners? – Wimbledon way back in 1988 -20 years ago! Those romantic Cup Final wins by lower Division sides no longer happen. I was there to see Millwall v Man U in the last final with a lower league side and it was an annihilation.

So although we’ve seen Everton, Bolton, Birmingham and Blackburn beaten today by lower league opposition, is it likely things will change this year? I seriously doubt it – and I’m not looking forward to Gaunty returning to the airwaves all cockadoodledoo again on Monday and crowing about Cov’s win against Blackburn. I also doubt whether any of these clubs’ Boards and management will be that sad to go out of the Cup (with the possible exception of Everton) – certainly none of their managers will be sacked because of it. To some Chairmen it might even look like a strategic imperative.

So should we just let things slide with the Cup becoming more and more irrelevant and interesting? I witnessed at close quarters what happened at Middlesbrough when they got through to those finals in the late 90’s. It was exciting and captured the imagination of the whole town and inspired a generation of new fans to support the club. I know what effect it can have and I’d hate to see the magic fade away.

So I’d like to suggest a few changes to maintain interest:

– I think clubs which qualify for the Champions League shouldn’t be entered for the League Cup (they don’t need the distraction) but should be allowed to remain in the FA Cup but must play all games away (unless the opposition prefer not to). Draws against other top 4 sides to be played at neutral grounds (not Wembley)

– all games in the FA Cup to be decided on the first match – via extra time and penalties if necessary – to allow the smaller sides the best possible chance to snatch unlikely results

– the FA to award a prize fund of £50m for the winners, £10m for the losers to provide an incentive for all teams to want to win it including disaffected Premiership sides. Let’s face it, if McClaren’s worth a £10m  contract the jewel in the crown must be worth f*cking winning for its own sake. Make it the best competition in the world again.

– League Cup matches to be determined by a single match too. Winners of this to go into a revised EUFA cup which reverts to a straight knock-out single match format with 1/2 sides from all leagues also competing from the CL runner(s) up spots. Absolutely no sides dropping down from the CL. Let the CL faff around with boring little leagues and seedings and predictable winners and once you’re out, you’re out.  Make the EUFA Cup a beautifully spontaneous, vibrant and attractive tournament again – rather than an expensive chore.

I’d be interested in your views but Moscow as Man U are playing Villa in the Cup on the TV don’tcha know and I’m suddenly up for it again.


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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

7 thoughts on “still up for the cup?

  1. Pingback: Sport » Blog Archive » still up for the cup?

  2. Hi PP

    Happy New Year, and congrats on the blog site so far – always thought provoking stuff, and a great read over the morning coffee.

    Anyway, enough smoke up the a$$! I’m kind of with you in the thoughts about both the FA & League cups, but can’t help thinking that if sides are restricted to which competitions they can get involved in it devalues them for other clubs.

    Look at what happened when Man U withdrew from the league cup a few years ago.

    Irrespective of what sort of side they put out, all clubs should be represented, be it a second string/academy team in the League Cup or a full strength side, it means a lot to everyone in the competition to get to the third round with a chance to meet Man U, Chleski, the Arse, Hubcappers or even the Barcodes. How did Cov react to beating Fergies kids in the League Cup this year? What will Tottingham fans sing if they beat Wengers Munchkins in the same competition?

    It does matter, albeit to the supporters, so bollox to the managers, chairmen and boards – all these clubs are in a English league and need to be forced to play in the cups that define the character of the game.

    Mind you, I would say that as a fan of AFC where Wenger seems to have a knack for finding/creating/coaching (avoided grooming there!) youth talent for our delight in these cups, look at the bench yesterday at Burnley –

    GK Fabianski (Polish, 22)
    DF Djourou (Swiss, 20)
    DF Hoyte (English, 23)
    MD Randall (English, 18)
    MD Lansbury (English, 17)

    Happy days!


  3. yep
    can’t disagree massively to be honest pgob (and hny mate).

    i’m not for limiting the magic but i do think the carling (or whatever it’s called) cup might benefit from not having the big 4 – just to spice it up. let’s face it the arsenal 2nd team could prob come 4th in the Prem – they are that good – so any lesser side playing them means a pay day but it’s likely to be a loss. in the junior competition i’d genuinely like to see it won by somebody other than one of the big 4 for a change. the £m’s they earn from champs league (which is denied to everyone) is surely recompense.

    if arsenal want to try out players try the prem league..or dead rubber Champs league matches!

    as for the FA Cup bring ’em on. we can’t have them missing the best knock-out comp in the world as you say. but some slight disadvantage (like playing away) might even the odds a tiny bit, though i accept it’s slightly managed rather than a free draw. but do we care that much?

    i just don’t want the cup to get more marginalised. do you know what the winning prize is currently? It’s a humongous £1m and what does the FA make from it? that’s what McClaren got paid every 4 months or so to pick one side on average (and lose). that’s no incentive for bolton or birmingham to try and bust their asses. make it really worthwhile and then everyone might want a crack at it. right now it’s virtually a cert that man u, arse, chels or liv win it, as with the Prem League. So what’s the point of everyone else turning up? It’s become too predictable and it’ll kill football if we aren’t careful like F1 suffered in the Schumacher years.

    it’s alright for you and i because we support top 4 sides but if you were a Sunderland fan say where on earth is the pleasure? they are prob better off back in the Championship winning lots of games and aiming for promotion than doing nothing other than maybe staving off relegation for one more year by playing dour defensive football and scraping wins against other sides in the bottom 6. i’d hate to watch that week in week out to be honest. And if they jettison the Cup as an irrelevance as they seemed to do over the weekend, doesn’t that insult the memory of ian porterfield, bob stokoe and the great side that created a Cup legend by beating mighty dirty leeds against all the odds? Imagine being a Sunderland fan that day – there lies the absolute football fantasy. Not going out against f*cking Wigan and thinking, oh well…

    sorry i’ll get off my hobby horse now and just enjoy the draw (which didn’t exactly stretch the big 4 did it?). Sorry I’ll stop now and drink some wine pgob.
    grumpy old git pp

  4. hi pgob

    yep a nice piece and more eloquent than me. i’m still finding it hard to look beyond the top 4 again as likely winners but there’s hope at least in the carling cup where, dare i mention it pgob, tott are leading arsenal.

    it could all change…

  5. Hi PP

    Fortress Emirates…… bl**dy hell that was close!

    Thank God for little Feo’s knee, appendage and abdomen – without them we would have lost a record going back to 1999.

    What’s the betting that the same bunch of kids (Wenger might be tempted to bolster the side, but I bet he won’t) work the Lillywhites over at The Lane!

    1-1 at half-time in the SF of the Carling Cup, I’ll take that.

    Chin chin


  6. ooh pgob….

    that was as close as the spurs have got to turning you over. great match; have done a separate posting on the peripheral highlights that always amuse me.

    you fancy taking them at WHL? it’ll be getting close to the expiry of the transfer window so no doubt berbatov will play like a sun god just to get his move to man u. we might have to sell rooney to pay for him though. yeh right.


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