Every year the phrase comes out, ‘the magic of the FA Cup’. Sometimes it’s a veteran playing in the lower leagues who gets his chance to net on a big stage, such as Old Trafford or The Emirates. Other years, it’s the minnow team who invite a free flowing Premier League giant to attempt to play football on their chewed up turf. Whatever the situation, throughout the history of the competition, there is always a tie, a tackle, a save or a goal that grabs the attention of football fans worldwide, and is logged in the history books as being part of the magic of the cup.
Over the past two or three seasons however, the phrase, and in many circumstances the occasion has been in decline. With the League season becoming so important, not just for those competing for the title, but also those scrapping it out in the lower reaches of the Premiership, the FA Cup has become less and less important to many of the clubs. Teams are starting to leave out their biggest players, saving them for the increasingly difficult fixtures that the Premire League poses. the crowds also are in decline. As a Charlton fan, I attended the game against Fulham. Despite losing the game 4-0, the Charlton fans were by far the more vocal throughout the game, and the Fulham crowd were distinctly lacking. Of course I understand that the thought of a fixture against a league one side is not appealing for a team like Fulham, but it wasn’t long ago that FA cup ties of almost any persuasion drew in a large crowd.
This season seemed to have carried on the same way. We had the big ties, City vs United being a prime example, but the feeling of importance, particularly for the neutral feels somewhat lost. Therefore, I for one am excited that somehow we have ended up with an all Premier League final. Not only that, but the final is between two teams that have not exactly set the league alight. Chelsea have endured a fairly poor season in the league. Their new manager lasted only a matter of months, and they are struggling to get themselves in a position to qualify for next years champions league. They have however managed to get themselves to the final of this years Champions League, defeating Barcelona on the way, and find themselves in the affor-mentioned FA cup final. Similarly, Liverpool have failed to impress in the league with ‘king’ Kenny back for another spell in charge of the club. One striker involved in a race row, another struggling for goals, Kenny taking a hugely defensive and somewhat pathetic ‘us against the world’ mentality against any form of criticism, all has not been well at Anfield, and thare appear to have no chance of making it to the Champions League next season. Like Chelsea though, they have swept aside their struggling striker and difficult league season, and have already claimed the League cup, which is one more trophy than one of United and City will receive.
Therfore, is this a lesson for other teams? Is it truly the case that a team fighting for the league can no longer pay any attention to a cup? Or is the league becoming so tough to win, that more teams are going to focus on the cup’s by way of success, hence rekindling the magic of the cup?
Either way, if Chelsea lose the Champions League final, the majority of people associated with the club, fans and otherwise will see this season as a disappointment. Similarly, even a domestic cup double doesn’t really seem to satisfy the great wants of a club so steeped in historical success as Liverpool. For the neutral though, the cup is well and truly alive. Whether out of their necessity to show they can still compete, or out of sheer hard work and enthusiasm for the cup, if this final delivers its potential quality and the league becomes a more consistently two horse race, maybe the cup will once again serve up the ties that we have become accustomed to seeing. Both Torres and Carroll have come alive in recent weeks, not purely in the cup, but surely in no small part down to their appearances in the competition. Two sides who have struggled for form throughout their league campaign have made it to Wembley, the biggest stage in the English game. Let’s hope they serve up a classic that not only reminds us of their stature within the game, but also signals a return of the magic of the cup.
- Serie A clubs vote in favour of season restart by mid-June
- Premier League aiming for a restart in early June
- Manchester United to resist bids for highly-rated English goalkeeper: report
- Two Chelsea players who could head through the exit door this summer
- Arsenal become first Premier League side to confirm voluntary player pay-cuts