It is back, the oldest and most prestigious cup competition in the World is once again upon us this weekend and although we may already be two rounds into the F.A. Cup, it is without doubt the third stage is when the interest really picks up.
Or so they say. Because with every year that passes the prestige of this once heralded trophy seems to diminish. That is because after what has been a frenetic festive period of Premier League action, 20 of the teams that enter at this stage will treat it as a welcome break for their star players.
It’s as if the break from league action becomes something of a nuisance for top flight managers and it is not an issue that is apparent at just the top end. For the clubs looking to land a spot in next season’s European competitions then the fact that there is an additional front to compete on is simply another hurdle to clear.
While for anyone from outside the top eight then it will be the perfect opportunity in which to make wholesale changes with the attittude being “great if we advance, but if we do crash out then at least there are less games for us between now and the end of the season”
And that ladies and gentlemen is exactly where the fault lies, Jamie Carragher’s comments late last month about how teams in the lower half are not prepared to have a go because the fear of losing is too great certainly whipped up something of a maelstrom from some fans.
The view if not the acceptance at the moment is that teams would rather try and not lose then opposed to go for a win, in doing so giving themselves a better chance of staying in the Premier League and by extension teams of the same ilk would rather sacrifice cup participation if it meant preserving their top flight status.
The reason for this is the fact that the financial pitfalls are far too great to even consider dropping out of the top division in England. Such is the drop off in money between the top two leagues in the country then it is almost financial suicide to be relegated.
And by the same note club chairman will weigh up the fact that the prize money on offer is not simply worth the risk, why go for silverware when you can stay in the sanctuary in the Premier League, quite simply it is money that has become the be all and all.
The issue you have is that the F.A. are never going to be able to match the kind of prize money on offer to make it a viable concern for teams in the lower half and do not even get me started on the people who suggest that a Champions League place should be offered to the winner.
So therefore the F.A. Cup has taken on the mantle of being an unloved step child and what is worse is that the problem is now seeping into the Championship also. Last season Chris Hughton decided to make wholesale changes to the Brighton team for their trip to Lincoln.
His theory being that the club did not need the additional games that a cup run would bring especially as they were bidding for promotion, now they lost on the day to Danny Cowley’s Lincoln but ended up finishing runners up in the Championship.
Now the decision obviously was justified in the end as the Seagulls were promoted but the irony is that they have become one of the select band of teams who will look at this weekend as nothing more than a mere inconvenience in their battle to beat the drop.
The competition only really gets interesting until Semi Finals, maybe the key is for the Football Association to rename the 3rd Round as the Semi’s, have sixteen groups of four and make the tournament really elongated for the benefit of TV.
To be honest I am being flippant in regards to the suggestion but every time we hear the cup is in good health from the powers that be the truth is that is far from the case, the game is already being eroded with no replays from the 6th Round onward, as it continues to stay relevant in an already congested calendar.
So what is the answer especially as the money in the Premier League will only increase in time and in turn only further diminish the will to be a part of this once glorious competition, to be honest I don’t think anyone really knows but best of luck if you team is taking part this weekend. Let’s just hope they at least make an honest fight of it.
Until next week