We are celebrating or should that be commiserating a sad anniversary with the fact that its 50 years since a local West Midlands team won the coveted FA Cup.
Why does the West Midlands have such limited success in senior cup competitions in the modern era? I know owners and some managers and head coaches will say that they have “bigger fish to fry” which means winning promotion to the Premier League or staying in Premier League. In other words money is the “bigger fish to fry”.
You have to go back to 1968 for the last time any local West Midlands team won the FA Cup and that was West Bromwich Albion’s terrific 1-0 win against Everton.
Before that it was Wolves in 1960 when they comfortably beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 and prior to that was in 1957 Villa beating Manchester United 2-1. Three wins in 61 years doesn’t make great reading.
Villa have reached the final twice in recent times losing to Chelsea in 2000 and then to Arsenal in 2015.
It’s the same in the League Cup when the last team to win it from the West Midlands was Blues who beat Arsenal 2-1 in 2011.
Villa have been the most successful of our teams with two wins in the 90’s beating Manchester United 3-1 in 1992 and then Leeds United 3-0 in 1996-but even that is 26 and 22 years ago respectively?
Why is it? Could it be that managers and coaches more often than not field so called weakened teams preferring to save their best players for important league games’?
When did League games become more important than cup games? Amazingly I think you will find that the rot set in from 1993 onwards and we all know what happened then. It has been getting progressively worse as the TV money for getting in or staying in the Premier League has increased to today’s astronomical figures of one hundred and sixty million pounds minimum just for reaching the Premier League.
Even the added incentive of European football for winning the cups has not changed attitudes towards the cup competitions. I am sure that attitude would change overnight if there was 50 million pounds for winning the FA Cup. At the moment winning either the FA Cup or League Cup is all about glory, prestige and history and, as I am sure most owners will say, where do you see glory, prestige or history on a balance sheet!
But what about the supporters? What do they want? I see a growing number of younger fans dismissing the value of the cups especially in the early rounds. However on the whole I think fans would love to see their team win at Wembley in either the FA or the League cup finals. I know Villa fans still talk about the wins against Manchester United and the win against Leeds United in the 90s. Blues fans will never forget the day they beat Arsenal at Wembley and the great times they had in the UEFA Cup just 7/6 years ago.
More of the same from all our local clubs is long overdue but promotion and relegation equates to massive money and until that changes sadly I don’t believe we will see much cup success around these parts.