One of the reasons the romance of the FA Cup is dwindling if not disappearing was clear to see at the weekend when TV opted to show live kick by kick coverage of the big clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Arsenal and of course the obligatory West Ham United with whom the national media continue to have a somewhat bizarre love in with.
The romance of the FA Cup is all about shocks and upsets as we all love to see lower league or non-league clubs do well. These banana league clashes are what makes the FA Cup so different.
Lorry drivers, factory and office workers, painters and decorators who all play for the love of the game are in the same competition as the top Premier League clubs when it kicks off in August. They battle their way through up to 8 games to reach the third round and earn the right to pit their wits against the top clubs. They capture the imagination of all football fans who are willing them to win, unless it is against their own club of course.
Who remembers Leatherheads amazing run in 1974/75 season when they reached the 4th round thanks to goals from their striker Chris “The Leatherhead Lip” Kelly. They faced first division (Now Premier League) Leicester City at Filbert Street and were 2-0 up before eventually losing 3-2 probably down to the full-time fitness of the foxes. Kelly dominated our screens with his Muhammad Ali style chat and we loved it.
As we did Hereford’s famous 1971 win over Newcastle at Edgar Street, Colchester’s win against the Might Leeds United in 1971. Bournemouth then in what is now League 2 beating Manchester United in 1984. Wrexham beating Arsenal in 1992 with that amazing Micky Thomas goal.
Nearer to home and, I am sure, condemned to the back of our minds we have Sutton United defeating Coventry in 89, Kidderminster beating Blues in 94, Woking seeing off the Baggies in 91 and in 2014 League One team Sheffield United winning at Villa to name but a few.
But that is what makes the FA Cup so different from any other cup competition anywhere in the world where Sunday footballers can end up playing against Manchester United and living the dream all be it for a short spell. That is why it is envied the world over and is the most famous cup on the planet.
Like most of us as a boy I did not dream of playing for Scotland or England or playing in a European Final. All I ever wanted to do was play at Wembley in the FA Cup final for Blues!
I even invented my own FA Cup game where all the teams would be written out and I would make the draw and then hold the rounds drawing out the scores such was the magic of the FA Cup.
I listened religiously to the draw at lunchtime on Mondays and FA Cup final day was just amazing and so special that once we had a TV I watched from morning to night on Cup final day.
This season the romance was oozing from a tie like Stourbridge away at Wycombe Wanderers or Lincoln City away at Ipswich? However those in charge of the TV scheduling continue to think that we all want to watch the so called big teams week in and week out.
It is the same with the Premier League games as they continually force feed us the top teams so much so that I don’t watch them as a matter of routine but now pick a game that gives me a chance to see something different.
The really sad thing is that the last thing the FA or Sponsors want is anyone other than the big clubs to reach the FA Cup final. For them the romance can sod off if it interferes with the ability to make even more money by pleasing the sponsors.
Now we have managers like Eddie Howe at Bournemouth making 11 changes for his 3rd round tie and getting knocked out. He can presumably now concentrate on??? Oh I remember staying in the premier league to earn millions because that is the extent of their and other Premier clubs ambitions.
The game as we know it has been ruined by TV money and the desire for TV money at the highest levels.
Week in week out we have big Premier League clubs forced down our throats. Is it too much to ask that TV treat the FA Cup as the fans competition and rekindle the romance most of us have or used to have with it.