Is There Any Football This Weekend?

24 01 2010

A rare thought on football….

Back in England, the FA Cup is in full swing with its fourth round matches. We haven’t actually watched any of the games but it does seem strange that we were unaware that it was an FA Cup weekend. The Compulsive Hooker can remember the days when even a non football fan would have had some idea who was playing and afterwards what the scores were. These days the FA Cup is increasingly becoming an irrelevance in top flight football, only targeted by those clubs who aren’t challenging for European honours or the league title.

The League Cup has suffered this fate for a long time now. Initially Arsene Wenger, then many other managers began sending out their youth team players and fringe quad members to contest these games causing the value of the competition to drop. The FA Cup sadly now looks like it could follow the League Cup into irrelevant obscurity, although it must be said that a side like Hull or Birmingham, destined for mid or low table mediocrity, would always find time to concentrate on it.

It was only 10 or 15 years ago that for an English team to progress as far as the semi finals of the European Cup was an exceptional achievement. Man Utd’s win in 1999 has sparked something of a golden period for English football with both Liverpool and Man Utd (again) winning it, and Chelsea and Arsenal contesting finals in the decade to follow. Indeed it is now not unusual to find 2 or 3 English sides out of four in the semi final stage. This natural preference for a higher level of competition has led to the FA Cup receding in the big four sides thoughts and so this proud competition has been relegated to the domain of the mid table struggler’s.

This apparent lack of interest raises an altogether larger problem with the English leagues, as despite this apparent lack of interest, only 2 clubs outside of the big four (Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea) have won the competition in the last 19 years. It seems that despite this lack of focus the squads of these major clubs are still good enough to ensure participation through to the last couple of rounds – at which point they pull out the big guns.

This seems to suggest that the days when a less wealthy side like Blackburn or Newcastle could challenge for the league title are gone. The current exception being Man City, who due to unlimited Emirati riches, are challenging for a top four spot and for this season at least seem to have replaced Liverpool. The financial power of these top clubs ensure their continued reign at the top of the English game and for them at least, the two domestic cup competition’s are bonuses but no more.

What do you think? Are you still interested in the FA Cup?

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8 responses

24 01 2010
Chris Allen

I remember liverpool Arsenal FA Cup final, (Charlie George scored an blinder) when coverage started on TV on both channels in the morning, interviewing the players, wives, children…..the build up was fantastic, come the game you were at fever pitch! In those years the FA Cup seemed to be more important than the league, like you it was only Saturday morning when I looked at the fixture list on line that I realised it was a FA Cup weekend….then feel dissapointed not to have an evening of live football, (Man U v Hull only) Mind you worse than that is International friendly weekends!

24 01 2010
James Parrett

Don’t agree with you on this one Bradders. Look at the winners of the cups in the last 10 years, it’s predominantly “big” clubs. Clubs and fans always want silverware and titles. If you look at what Wenger has done by playing kids, he has produced nothing and has increasingly riled fans by not taking the cups seriously. Man U and Liverpool both went out early this year and to their fans that is just plain embarrassing.

Describing the FA Cup as irrelevant is a pretty ignorant statement. Just because you don’t watch it hasn’t changed the fact that it is still the most watched domestic cup in the world.

25 01 2010
Bradders

Hi Pol,

Thanks for commenting once more.

Perhaps it is because I’m based in the middle east and so the coverage is inevitably less, which means that I haven’t been aware of too much build up for the cup games. I do see what you’re saying so perhaps I’m wrong.

The only thing is that for the top 4 at any rate, the focus does appear to be European Cup now and perhaps the FA cup has suffered slightly by comparison. Irrelevance is probably too big a statement – you’re right, but perhaps a softening of importance to some degree is correct?

The only games that are shown on tv out here (which I do watch) are the premiership games and champions league so perhaps this has altered my view on things.

Do you not think that perhaps this could be circumstantial evidence in a case for a further divide in the gap between rich and poor? Top 4 or 5 and the rest?

Anyway, thanks for reading mate!

25 01 2010
Bradders

Just looked online to see the Stoke Arsenal result and see Arsenal lost 3-1, apparently with a pretty young and inexperienced team (although apparently Sol Campbell made a few glaring errors). Evidence perhaps to support my argument of a devaluing of the cup? Granted Wenger hasn’t won anything pursuing this policy so maybe it is him who is wrong to not focus on it….

One other thought I might add is the FA Cup still produces the old romance it was always associated with for less able clubs and for that reason alone it will probably always be popular.

25 01 2010
Bradders

Hi Chris,

Perhaps it simply that we’re based out in the Middle East that we are missing the build up?!

25 01 2010
Robbo

Chris, you are showing your age!

re the devaluing of the cup, as Bradders I think the complete lack of Middle Eastern coverage has a huge bearing on the way we view it.

As a hugely proud LEEDS fan, I have been glued to the ITV internet feed via an English VPN for the last 2 rounds. Yes Scumchester United fielded a weakened side, but they had the ‘big guns’ on the bench and essentially left it too late and couldn’t overcome true Yorkshire grit.

Knowing the intense hatred Man Who have for us (and vica versa) this will not have sat well with their supporters at all, who are already more disgruntled than usual due to the Glazer debt situation.

Roll forward to the next round, you only have to look at the side ‘Arry fielded against us to know that he is taking it seriously. WIth the 90++ minute equaliser from Becks, the cup romance continues!

The draw for the next round is good as well, what price Southampton knocking out a Portsmouth side that (if all reports are to be believed) will be in administration by then, depsite the promised injection of Dirhams and then Riyals.

The FA cup still offers a route into Europe, which is a good revenue generator. My guess is the big 4 have previously known that they will qualify for the ECL due to League position therefore not so much onus is placed on the FA Cup, criminal really with its history but football is more and more a business (and an awfully run one at that).

Should one of the big 4 not qualify for the ECL this year (Liverpool) this will leave them with egg on their face.

Chris, Liverpool are the new Leeds, the slide has started, it’s a slippery slope.

Robbo

25 01 2010
Bradders

Hi Robbo,

Good to have you on board! I think you have it spot on really with your comments re ‘not so much onus is placed on the FA cup’ from the big 4 clubs. I have acknowledged the fact though that a less successful club such as Leeds or a premiership side outside the top4 would be interested…

Hopefully Leeds can do it in the replay…. Would love to see Spurs beaten!

25 01 2010
Chris Allen

Good point well made! I just hope you are wrong, good to see Leeds doing well again!

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