After a weekend of shocks in the FA Cup, history has been made with two non-league sides being in the hat for the Fifth Round draw for the first time ever. This came after a number of shocks which saw big names tumble out. However, the amount of non-league sides in the Fifth Round shouldn’t be celebrated. Instead, it should raise huge alarm bells for those in charge of the world’s most famous cup competition. The huge number of changes made by the larger clubs suggests the competition is no longer important to them. So just why has this happened?
Roll back the clock thirty years and the FA Cup was huge. Cup final day was an event with programmes on all day building up to the big event. It was many young kids dream to score the winner in the FA Cup Final. With shocks, exciting matches and prestige, the cup was perhaps arguably bigger than the league. However, in 2017, the magic of the cup does seem to have faded slightly.
This has been especially evident this weekend. Huge changes were made to a number of big sides. An example of this has to be Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp made nine changes to the team who played in the Premier League days earlier. With no European football and a first Premier League crown looking beyond them, surely the cup should have been a priority for the Reds. However, Klopp decided to prioritise Tuesday’s game against Chelsea in the Premier League. Whilst qualification for the Champions League is well within their grasps, surely Klopp could have played a stronger team against a Wolves side who deserved more respect. Rightly, they were beaten but it could have been so different for the Anfield side. The team line up by Klopp clearly shows that he prioritises getting into the Champions League over winning a cup. It shows a lack of knowledge of English game and naivety by Klopp. A Wembley final is clearly not important enough for him and now they face a boring end to the season.
However, perhaps the worst thing for the cup is that even sides in the Championship have been playing weaker sides. Newcastle crashed out away to Oxford in nothing more than an embarrassing result for the Magpies. However, things could have been so different if Rafa Benitez decided to pick a stronger side. Benitez, an experienced manager in England, decided to field Curtis Good at the back, a player who was long forgotten at St. James’ Park. Oxford, a League One side, are only a division below Newcastle. A lack of respect was once again shown towards Oxford and the Newcastle fans who travelled. Rightly, Newcastle were easily defeated 3-0 in an embarrassing day but if sides refuse to play their big names results like these can only be expected.
Quite clearly, the league is the priority for higher league sides. However, lower league sides such as Lincoln, who are currently chasing promotion to the Football League, don’t seem to have the same problem, clearly, this is because the cup means more to them. Money seems to be the main priority for all sides, getting further in the cup means big paydays for them. However, trying to get into the Premier League or Champions League for higher level sides the league is becoming the priority, achieving this would provide more money for them than the cup, therefore making it the priority. It is shame for this magnificent competition and fans across the country that this is the case. Surely now there must be reform to try and make it more appealing to clubs. However, to fans, winning the cup is still an amazing experience and hopefully, clubs will soon realise this. However, don’t hold your breath.