Can the Apathetic FA Cup Regain Its Magic?
I have lost interest in this year’s
FA Cup. Once my own team’s interest in the world’s oldest
domestic cup competition has ended, I look for one of the smaller
teams to pull off a few surprises. And in the last few years we have
seen a break from the turgid monotony of Manchester United, Chelsea,
Liverpool, etc. lining up on the big day.
Former England international and now
pundit in Southeast Asia Steve McMahon often says that fans like to
see the best teams in the final. But far be it for me, a mere fan, to
disagree with a Liverpool legend but I do. I don’t want to see the
usual teams who clog up my TV screen week in week out during the
domestic season, lining up to be greeted by whoever has been rustled
up to shake hands on the field before the kick off.
For me the FA Cup is about romance.
It’s about Colchester United’s beating Leeds United, non-league
Hereford United’s defeating Newcastle United, non-league Sutton
United’s getting past Coventry City, and even Wrexham’s
overcoming Arsenal with tow late, late goals.
The cliché has always been that the
Cup is a great leveler. It isn’t anymore of course given the
massive sums the Premier League clubs can claim from TV rights, but
there are still moments when the FA Cup can remind us of its historic
There was Wimbledon of course beating
mighty Liverpool, a Liverpool team featuring the aforementioned
McMahon, 1-0 in the final. Then there was lowly Chesterfield’s
reaching the semi finals and pushing a Middlesbrough team packed with
world class talent like Ravanelli.
Last season we saw Stoke City play
Bolton Wanderers in the semifinal for the chance to play in the
final. Going a bit further back we have seen teams like Millwall,
Cardiff City and Portsmouth on two occasions reach the final itself.
Wise old saws may patronizingly suggest
this is evidence the Cup’s appeal has been diminished by the big
clubs prioritizing the Premier League and the Champions League but
that doesn’t hold water when you see how many times the likes of
Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool have appeared in the final
in recent years.
The FA Cup is still important.
Liverpool, under Kenny Dalglish, will be desperate to win the trophy
this year to go alongside the Carling Cup they won earlier so they
can say despite their massive expenditure it is not all doom and
gloom at Anfield. For Everton, a cup after 10 years under David Moyes
will be seen as a rare occasion when the good guy does win something.
Tottenham plays Chelsea in the other
semi and with its title race ending, manager Harry Redknapp will be
keen to show he can still motivate his team while Roberto di Matteo
will have a point to prove at Chelsea as he bids for the job full
Plenty of simmering subplots then to
keep most people happy but I for one would have preferred to see
Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers overcome Everton and Tottenham,
respectively, and take their place in the semifinals. Their fans are
still dreaming of a cup final spot.