Thursday 23 November 2017

Push for change to Cup format is Fergie's legacy

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson with the FA Cup back in May 1999: Sean Dempsey / PA
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson with the FA Cup back in May 1999: Sean Dempsey / PA

So now they want to kill the FA Cup. The Premier League mincer wants to chew up the only bit of romance left in the game and spit it out as a sad remnant, a reminder of what football used to be about.

The top clubs are pushing hard for the FA Cup to be marginalised and its full fixture list enacted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

This, they believe, will help fixture congestion and allow the top clubs to fight on an even-footing with continental European teams who enjoy a mid-winter break.

This is truly awful news and the final straw for many. Call it Fergie's legacy if you will. It was Alex Ferguson's willingness to bail out of the 1999/2000 FA Cup draw for a jaunt to Brazil and FIFA's meaningless World Club Championship which put the first nail in the coffin.

Fully Backed

The move will be fully backed by the top managers. Jurgen Klopp has been bellyaching about the amount of football Liverpool have to play since he arrived and he was just joining in the chorus.

But the FA Cup has enjoyed a revival in the last few years and this season in particular, has been full of energy and entertainment.

For the lower leagues it remains a vital lifeline and this is where the real damage would be done if the English FA caves in and messes with the FA Cup schedule.

We know only too well in this country what happens when an overbearing neighbour dominates. The Premier League, and the First Division before it, has slowly but surely sucked the life out of the League of Ireland.

Local mismanagement and poor planning haven't helped the LOI but the fundamental problem is the presence of the Premier League on our doorstep.

Speaking to Alan Maybury earlier in the week, it was striking to hear his perspective on Glasgow Rangers' slow torture but he found a huge silver lining for many clubs in the lower leagues.

"Having Rangers around brought enough money in to keep some of these clubs going for the next two or three years," said Maybury.

Two or three years! The FA Cup has the same impact.

We have selfish reasons for wanting the FA Cup to grow rather than fade away into irrelevance.

Many of our best will look back at their careers and judge a successful Championship promotion campaign as the peak of their achievements in the week-to-week grind of league competition.

But the FA Cup gives them much more if they are lucky enough to enjoy one of those epic runs by a lower league club which can still fire the imagination.

It gives Irish players a shop window. Some have put Chris Forrester forward as worthy of Martin O'Neill's consideration for France 2016 after his eye-catching performance for Peteborough against West Brom in the Cup.

It was the chance to play against Premier League players in the FA Cup which did that for him. By all accounts he's been playing as well in League One but it took a show-piece game, a replay as it happened, to shine a light on his talent.

The Premier League clubs want to get rid of replays altogether.

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