The FA Cup is on its death bed

by admin

Monday, February 21st, 2011

At what point does something become cliché? How long does a set of sayings or commonly held beliefs have to be around before you grow tired of hearing the same old platitudes over and over again to the point that they are rendered meaningless?

That is the fate of the FA Cup in modern football. Since the launch of the Premier League, the FA Cup has suffered.

Last week the fourth round tie between Wigan and Bolton attracted an attendance of just over 7,500. Manchester United and Arsenal were the chief protagonists as both chased the Premier League title at the turn of the century – United flew out to the World Club Championship in 2000 instead of competing in the age-old tournament while Arsene Wenger repeatedly sent out weakened teams.

It is no good claiming they use full strength squads now – which largely still isn’t the case – the image and reputation of a competition that was once held in the utmost respect has been tarnished, and for some time fans will have the inkling that the FA Cup is of relatively little importance to the men in charge of their clubs.

When Fernando Torres was interviewed about his move to Chelsea he bemoaned the lack of silverware he won at Liverpool. When reminded of the clubs FA Cup win in 2006, he shrugged his shoulders.

“If you don’t play in the Champions League it’s as if you don’t exist,”

‘No matter what you do in your domestic league, it doesn’t seem to matter without the Champions League. It’s the biggest club competition there is.”

Have no illusions, the FA Cup is a secondary priority for any club with the ambition of European football, relegation survival or title hopes.

But that has given rise to the art of the banana skin. The art of TV channels scouring around for kids with painted faces outside of a dilapidated lower league ground with a hope of their side scrapping their way to a replay or, if the ball falls their way, the beloved act of giant killing. After all, if there is no story to be made of the top teams fielding youth team players, then something can be made of the plucky underdogs going up against the fat cats.

Surely lower league clubs are tired of being patronised and insulted to such an extent? The Leyton Orient v Arsenal game is a prime example. The type of game where football bets render it a one-horse race supposedly, only for the lesser time to strike back.

“Wenger was outwitted!” screams the Daily Mail. “Leyton Orient FA Cup heroes!” bellows The Sun.

Leyton Orient were poor against Arsenal. They lacked the fight or the hunger that was instantly peddled out in the media despite its absence. For around 88 minutes they didn’t create a chance of note as they sat off an Arsenal team intent on passing the ball no more than 5 yards between the midfield and defence.

Arsenal were allowed to rack up a record amount of passes in a single game, and the first incisive pass Orient  played led to the Jonathan Tehoue’s goal, which benefited from a fortunate bounce.

This is not to deny Russell Slade and his side their moment. Their season is building nicely and the play-offs are a real possibility after only one defeat in their last 21 games. They got a draw against Arsenal and fair play to them.

But don’t push them forward as roaring, fighting David against the intimidating Goliath. It’s insulting -and not true. It is just another marketing technique, a PR project.

The mystique built up around the game takes away from their achievements, rather than adding to them.

Stories of have a go heroes are creations of the media, not a story that comes from the pitch. The magic of the FA Cup? How tiresome a notion is that? How tired must supporters be of hearing that it does still exist, year after year.

Leyton Orient supporters should be allowed to enjoy their moment, the return leg at the Emirates can surely only finish one way as massive football betting underdogs,  so they should be allowed to enjoy it while they can, but an attempt to make it something it is not detracts from the achievement. They were lucky, simply put, and any belief otherwise is an attempt to dress it up to sell papers and convince the tournament is still important.

The FA Cup is spoken of in hushed, reverential tones by previous generations, who then bemoan its lack of relevance in the modern game.

Do not try and make it something it is not. If it holds a true magic, then supporters will find it themselves, rather than have the notion rammed down their throats. The cliché’s wheeled out for each and every game do not do justice and are an insult to both team’s involved.

The FA Cup is at a pivotal time in its history. Soon fans will become tired of being told that this year, and the year after, and the year after, is the greatest act of giant-killing in history. If the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal dealt a blow to the cup’s reputation in the early 2000’s, then the recent crop of sensationalised, over-the-top, and downright untrue coverage of FA Cup ties will kill off the oldest cup competition in the world.

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  • Josh

    No replays! For me, this is the key to revitalizing the FA Cup. You can’t offer Euro spaces to the shock winners, you can’t seed it because it’s tradition…but you can scrap replays. If they want to stop the big clubs winning it every year, then dont give them an ‘out’ as it were. Arsenal vs. Orient is a formality at the Emirates, but with an 89th min equaliser and a further 30mins ET, plus potential penalties…less of a formality.

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