I love the FA Cup and just about every fan I speak to does also. Yet it continues to be treated with disrespect by those who are more concerned with money than glory.
Can the Baggies upset the odds and win at Liverpool in the 4th round and will Blues cause a shock at Premier League Huddersfield. The drama, romance, thrills along with the potential giant killing acts still make this the greatest and much envied domestic cup competition on the planet. But the love of money and the fear of losing money has seen certain managers and clubs taint this wonderful competition. The top teams are concerned with European games or ensuring they win enough Premier League games to qualify for the money spinning Champions League. The middle teams are concerned with possibly moving up a few places because each place you finish higher in the league earns you around two million pounds. The bottom clubs are just concerned with finishing 17th or higher to ensure that the guaranteed 160 million pounds is there next season (100 million minimum each season in the premier league plus a guaranteed 60 million pounds in parachute payments if you do get relegated).
Teams can get more money for finishing two places higher in the Premier League than they can for winning the FA Cup. You will earn £3,397,000 for winning the Cup and yet will earn an extra 4 million for finishing 15th instead of 17th in the Premier League. Now for fans that financial incentive is not important but it does illustrate where manager’s priorities understandably can lie and why some of them do pick weakened teams.
Lots of teams made many changes last weekend for the third round games and for some that meant a weakened team with too many inexperienced youngsters but for others it was used as opportunity to give valuable game time to regular first team squad members while some are thinking about important league games the following week?.
For example did Villa pick a weakened team? Well if I suppose if it’s not your preferred first eleven then I suppose technically its weaker. However using Villa as an example their starting eleven was not full of kids but experience players with quite a few internationals and with all respect to Peterborough it should have been good enough to win the tie. However Posh showed greater desire, enthusiasm, and work rate and in my opinion that negated and over-ran Villa’s apparent better ability. To put it in simple terms Peterborough wanted it more than Villa’s players did.
The reason we get and have always had upsets and giant killing acts in the FA Cup is because some of the bigger clubs underestimate the power of desire over ability.
Other managers played lots of kids with potential and paid the penalty by being knocked out of the Cup. I just don’t get it-you can only play the game you have today. No point in worrying about next week’s game and the possibility of injuries when a player can just as easily get injured in training. I remember before 2011 when the FA changed the rules that teams would be fined for picking a weakened team in the FA Cup. Now as long as the players are chosen from their 25 man squad it’s seems to be OK even though the FA Rules state clubs must “pick their strongest available team”. Yet EFL teams were fined last season and can still be fined for not picking their strongest teams in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Just wait and see what happens when teams reach the latter stages of the FA Cup they are certain to pick their strongest starting eleven.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. I grew up wanting to play in the FA Cup final for Blues and if not I wanted to see them play in the final at Wembley (still waiting by the way) because it was a massive football occasion. And failing that I wanted to watch them on TV playing in the FA Cup final watching from around 9 am until well after the final whistle.
What will it take for our clubs, players and managers to once again make the FA Cup a priority? Do the powers that be need to provide a money spinning Champions League place for the winners. Or do they need to up the prize money? How seedy and tacky does that sound? And surely managers and players have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives but the love of money is all consuming.
Without doubt there is a financial and football Imbalance within the football pyramid that encourages management by fear. The romance of the FA Cup is still there it’s just that love will have to find a way into the minds and hearts of managers and players to rekindle it.