People say the FA Cup has lost it’s magic. That people don’t care about it anymore. That may be true for an elite ultra-rich Premier League few. But for the majority of clubs in the country, the FA Cup remains the pinnacle of their season, even some player’s careers.
Yesterday was a day when the brilliance of the FA Cup was catapulted back into the public consciousness. The defeats of both Chelsea and Manchester City sent shockwaves across the football community.
While Manchester City’s defeat to Middlesbrough was embarrassing and would normally be the headline story, Bradford City’s giant killing of Chelsea took all the plaudits; and rightly so.
For a Premier League side to beat Jose Mourinho’s team at Stamford Bridge is a huge achievement, let alone after trailing by two gaols. But for a team from the third tier of English football to hammer home four unanswered goals is quite simply what makes the FA Cup so special.
In recent years, particularly since the increase in prestige and standard in the Champions League, the FA Cup has been belittled by most of the top clubs. Perhaps understandably, given the financial rewards for playing European competitions as opposed to winning the famous old trophy.
However, something I have never been able to fathom is why certain Premier League teams rest their best players in the cup. Sure, if you have a large international squad and are playing in Europe in the near future, then I would make some allowances. But over the past few years, sides such as Newcastle and Tottenham have started to rest their first choice players.
This seems absolutely ridiculous; these are sides, which have no realistic ambitions of winning the league, and are in no danger of being relegated. If I was a fan of one of these mid-table clubs, I would be furious every time I saw a player being rested in the FA Cup; the cup represents the only chance of glory for so many teams!
Thankfully, over the last season or two, we have seen a slight reversal. Perhaps panicked by shock defeats, or maybe realising that fans want to win the cup; less players are being rested. Maybe these two huge shocks from yesterday will be the slap in the face the ‘big’ clubs need. Yesterday was, without a doubt, the most exciting day of FA Cup action I can remember, and if that won’t change the attitude of the larger clubs, I don’t know what will!
Manchester City only returned home from their warm weather training in Abu Dhabi on the Friday evening, and they paid the price with their lethargic display against a buoyant Boro. This sort of attitude towards the cup, must, and will change. Fans can no longer tolerate their teams devil may care approach to the world’s best cup competition; particularly fans of Premier League mid-table clubs.
Looking at this year’s cup, after yesterday’s action, it could well be one of the most exciting seasons ever for the tournament. With many big clubs haven fallen at the wayside, it really opens the tournament up for many clubs who hadn’t previously entertained thoughts of making the latter stages.
Teams such as West Ham and West Brom now have realistic chances of making at least the quarterfinal, and while some may feel the competition will suffer from missing the big guns; I don’t agree. Having smaller teams taking on, and beating, the big teams, is what makes the FA Cup such a special completion.
Cambridge United’s trip to Old Trafford is expected to net the League Two side over £1.7million. That sort of money can keep a club afloat for years, the cup offers both spiritual riches and financial riches to the fans and owners of smaller clubs. It’s worth bearing in mind, that last year, Cambridge’s total revenue was just £1.6million.
The match at the Abbey was watched by over 7 million people on BBC One on Friday night. They’re bigger numbers than the channel draws in for it’s usual Friday night offering.
It just goes to prove that the cup still holds some magic, and this weekend that magic has been spectacularly rekindled.