THE BLOG

Faith Has Been Restored in the FA Cup

26/02/2015 17:43 GMT | Updated 28/04/2015 10:59 BST

If there's one thing fans of Premier League teams hate most, it's other competitions coming in and forcing them to watch 'less important' matches. Whether it's international football, where we have to endure England trudge through another friendly or qualifier, or the FA or Capital One Cups, fans hate it.

In the past few years, the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the FA Cup is no longer a David vs Goliath match where the underdog emerges triumphant. It is instead the fact that many of the top teams field an almost different starting XI, resting their key players for the league.

The introduction of Premier League sides this year went as expected in their first round, as Manchester City and United beat Sheffield United and Yeovil Town respectively, as Arsenal knocked out Hull in a repeat of last year's final. In fact, the biggest surprise was that Ipswich took Southampton to a replay, which they then lost anyway.

Fans were already underwhelmed with the cup, and instead quietly wished their side would get knocked out, by a better team of course, so that they would not lose anymore players to injury following a winter of knocks and strains. However, week eight of the competition grabbed everyone's attention, and reignited a fire that has been out for many years now in the FA Cup.

Middlesbrough beat Manchester City at the Etihad, Leicester knocked out Spurs at White Hart Lane, Bradford City put four past Jose Mourinho's boys at the Bridge and Bolton and Cambridge United held Liverpool and Manchester United to goalless draws.

People love a good underdog story, unless it is their side that have to suffer, and there were relatively decent odds that a top six side would fail to take home the silverware, for once.

We now know that the competition has balanced itself out in the last round, and despite an early scare, Manchester United beat Preston and fellow Premier League sides Arsenal and Liverpool went through. For all the excitement of the previous round, the cup upsets appear to have ended for this season, with only Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers knocking out a top flight team from leagues below. Following the scare a few weeks back, the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United have begun to field stronger sides and 'take the competition more seriously', although the lower league teams who pulled off an upset will want to believe that they scared them into introducing their top players.

At a time where the World Cup is being moved to winter so that is can be played in an unbelievably unsuited nation and international friendlies are potentially going to be scrapped in favour of a league between nations, the importance of restoring the magic of the FA Cup has never been more serious. Football is all about money now and the measly £1.8m awarded to the winners is nothing compared to the money given for each Premier League position, as in some cases, the difference between two places can be around £7m when subsequent television money is included.

Managers would rather focus on the league first and then aim for a 'decent cup run' once their squad is solid enough, but this should not be the case. The FA Cup should not be an after-thought, fought for by the top Premier League sides with a larger squad and the ambitious lower league sides, it should be just as significant as the league, like it used to be. This year's FA Cup has gone a long way to restoring it's former glory, as cup upsets have made the top sides more conscious and the lower sides more ambitious. Perhaps having the League Cup as well as the FA Cup makes the latter less significant, but is the matches are as exciting as this season, it may regain it's status as England's most sought-after trophy.

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