Who said romance was dead?
Apparently, the FA Cup’s lost its appeal, its lustre, its romance. That’s all complete tosh, according to the Pubcast’s host Simon Head.
The “Magic of the Cup” has died. That’s what we’ve heard so often in recent seasons, usually after a drab all-Premier League tie featuring two teams peppered with reserves.
It’s impossible to ignore the change in attitude from some Premier League sides (and the occasional Championship club, too). But to judge the FA Cup purely on the behaviour of a handful of clubs would be unwise.
First Round day is always special and, with the introduction of the big boys, the Third Round always delivers entertainment too.
Sometimes the draw produces some memorable matchups. Reuniting Stevenage with Newcastle was always going to produce a great story. And thanks to a memorable performance at Broadhall Way, Graham Westley’s side exacted revenge for 1998, when a goal-that-really-wasn’t from Alan Shearer helped Newcastle gain the narrowest of wins in a replay at St. James’ Park.
The Cup throws up great stories like this at all levels.
It makes heroes of players, too. Whites striker Adam Birchall, previously considered not good enough at Barnet, emerged as the player of the early rounds, hitting 11 goals in the Cup to make him the competition’s top scorer so far this season. Expect to see him scoring goals in the Football League before the end of 2011.
When the top sides enter the fray, the classic “Giants v Minnows” matches sometimes produce some magic moments.
Stevenage beating Newcastle and Crawley knocking out Derby were both watched by the live TV cameras, while similar stories happened at Sunderland, who lost to Notts County, and Burton Albion, who knocked out Middlesbrough.
The matches at Stevenage, Crawley and Burton were watched by thousands of fans inside the clubs’ respective home grounds. Days like these are massive for the local communities and help cement the bond between clubs and their fans, particularly the younger ones.
To say “We were there…” when your club made history is a great thing indeed, and that, along with the financial rewards of an FA Cup run, helps keep the game alive at lower-division level.
It’s true that the financial gulf between the clubs at the top of the pyramid and the rest of the game has never been wider. And it’s also arguable that the chances of a non-league side upsetting a Premier League giant are smaller than ever. It’s even true that some managers seem to treat the FA Cup as a second-class competition.
But don’t think for one minute the FA Cup has lost its romance.
Make no mistake, the FA Cup is alive and well.