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FA Cup never loses magic

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Phil McNulty | 15:00 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

It's that time of the year again - when a much-loved colleague advances with a tabloid in his hand jabbing a finger angrily at dwindling attendances for FA Cup third round matches.

This is then followed up by full reading of every weakened team sent out by Premier League managers who place the great competition low on their list of priorities, with special emphasis on individuals we may never have heard of before, and may never hear of again.

An eagerly-anticipated annual ritual ends when he is confronted with the possibility of his beloved Spurs actually winning this supposedly discredited old pot, and his eyes mist over at the prospect of a day out at Wembley in May.

The message is the same though - the FA Cup, in his eyes, is finished. The glory days, or the glory glory days as he would call them, are gone.

With the greatest of respect to our unidentified cynic - who also mistakenly believes Harry Hill is as funny as an unlanced boil - I cannot disagree more when it comes to the FA Cup.

It is still (in my opinion obviously) a national treasure. It is still a competition that provides lifelong memories if your teams wins it.

It is still the competition that gives you anxiety when your team draws opponents from the lower or non-league, and gives you goosebumps when you enjoy the great victory over more illustrious opposition.

And no weakened team or lower-than-expected attendances will ever change my mind.

There is an almost annual rush to scratch the gloss off the competition, but it still contains the special element (or as it is always described "magic") that sets it apart.

Indeed, since this blog was originally written, the fourth round draw has thrown up a Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield, Manchester United must tackle their FA Cup nemesis Harry Redknapp with Spurs at Old Trafford and there will be an all-east midlands battle between Derby and Nottingham Forest.

Last year's competition had two supposedly low-key semi-finals followed by an even lower key final - but you try telling Portsmouth, West Brom, Barnsley and Cardiff that they were fighting over a devalued trophy.

Remember how the big names such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United dropped like flies to open up last year's tournament?

And Saturday's third round matches once again provided compelling evidence that there will be plenty of stories to tell once the final is played in May.

The FA Cup is alive and kicking. And some big names are being kicked.

Manchester City boss Mark Hughes is unlikely to be wallowing in the romance of the cup after the pressure increased on him to provide meaningful return on a vast investment following a humiliating defeat at home to Nottingham Forest.

Trademark City comedy value was provided by the emergence before kick-off of Wayne Bridge, one of the first symbols of the cash-rich new era under the Abu Dhabi United Group after his somewhat over-priced arrival from Chelsea.

Bridge gave it the usual "glad to be here" thumbs-up before City were almost inevitably pasted in front of their own fans by Forest.

wayne bridge

It is still ludicrously early in Hughes' reign to be writing obituaries, but word will have reached the Eastlands hierarchy about the resounding raspberry that greeted this result, and it will not be regarded as an exit from a lesser tournament or a blessing in disguise.

And what about Southend's draw at Chelsea? What a career-defining moment for Peter Clarke, a journeyman defender who failed to make the grade at Everton but can now keep himself warm forever with the memory of his late equaliser at Stamford Bridge?

Our cynic will point to Stoke's under-strength side at Hartlepool as a sign of the FA Cup's decreasing importance in our football calendar. The words will get carried away on the wind around Victoria Park as celebrations went on long into the night.

It is also a myth that the big clubs are no longer as interested in winning the FA Cup as they once were.

Each member of the so-called elite managerial group, especially Liverpool's Rafael Benitez, Chelsea's Luiz Felipe Scolari and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, would grasp gloriously and gratefully at an FA Cup triumph this season.

And there was no disguising how hurt Sir Alex Ferguson was when Manchester United slipped against Portsmouth in the last eight last season when a repeat of 1999's historic treble was in his sights once more.

At the other end of the scale Histon, Torquay, Kettering and Blyth will bring that wonderful element of the unknown to the next stage of the FA Cup.

So I will avoid my old friend with his attendance figures and team-sheets and just look forward to the guaranteed excitement FA Cup fourth round day will provide.


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  • 1. At 3:23pm on 04 Jan 2009, dandolinho wrote:

    the FA cup has been de-valued, but the teams that do.. like the top 4 or the teams fighting relegation have a reason to do it... the CL n the PREM are all too important to the top clubs, look at liverpool, think every fan will quite happily go out of the FA, LEAGUE and CL cups to get their hands on the PREM, stoke are relegation candidates with a team looking likely to implode n stayin in the PREM means a whole lot more than a few games in the FA cup

    i like the cup but it does come down my list of priorities in a season, just ahead of the league cup but a million miles behind the CL and the PREM

    for teams that are in the lower leagues n are mid table in the prem, wer they aint gonna go down, they aint gonna get into europe, its a great opportunity to get a fair bit of cash n even a route into europe, n the way i look at it is, if teams like arsenal treat it as a comp for the youngsters to be blooded in then it is going to give the lesser teams achance to get further, or as last season give us unexpected finalists n winners, which in turn gives the mid table teams a shot at europe.. the top 4 are always gonna get that

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  • 2. At 3:52pm on 04 Jan 2009, Bkkred wrote:

    I will never forget listening to the radio on a Monday lunchtime at school to hear 'who got who' in the next round, whereas now I have eagerly awaited the draw on the internet with just as much enthusiasm 40 years later. The FA Cup will always, for me, have something that no other competition can ever match. My memories of Mansfield Town in the 60's will last forever.

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  • 3. At 3:58pm on 04 Jan 2009, Joe Lewis wrote:

    I agree it never loses its magic.

    But if the BBC were that bothered about it they wouldn't have lost the television rights to ITV.

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  • 4. At 4:24pm on 04 Jan 2009, SalemHanna wrote:

    It's still the one trophy whose final everyone will watch if they have the chance, every year in May. Even people who don't care about football watch the FA Cup final. It's one of those annual events you just have to experience.

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  • 5. At 4:33pm on 04 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    And as if by magic (!) - to prove my point Liverpool are drawn at home to Everton and Derby get Nottingham Forest in the fourth round.

    Plenty of other tasty ties as well.

    I'm pretty certain Merseyside's fans will be taking the FA Cup fairly seriously over the next three weeks or so.

    Let's hear from Everton and Liverpool fans on that draw, and what do other fans think of their team's ties?

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  • 6. At 4:35pm on 04 Jan 2009, Graham James wrote:

    I should start by saying that I so rarely find myself able to agree with anything that Phil McNulty writes. No surprise then that I could nto disagree more with this romantic eulogy for the FA Cup.
    In my opinion there is absolutely no doubt that the FA Cup has been seriously devalued. It just does not carry the interest that it once did and one fact and one fact alone proves it - the declining crowds that matches in the competition draw.
    The cause? The main cause in my view is the huge growth of interest in the Premiership. This has left the FA Cup seemingly unimportant in comparison. Add to this other factors: the decision to play semi-finals at Wembley thus devaluing the interest, importance and impact of the final match; the decision to dispense with replays in the semi-finals and second replays in earlier rounds; the consequent introduction of the dreaded penalty shoot outs; more recently, the decision to give the TV rights to a second rate terrestial channel and, worse still, to a very expensive pay channel. All these factors mean the magic has gone and only dreamers caught up in the romance of one-off, giant-killing results think otherwise. Get real - the FA Cup needs a major injection of something special to reignite interest or it will slowly wither on the vine.

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  • 7. At 4:40pm on 04 Jan 2009, WebbyFoxes wrote:

    Phil, the FA Cup is brilliant.
    But what makes it even more sweet is when the Qualifying Rounds in August.
    I was at a Nuneaton Town game in the Qualifying Round.
    I wouldnt think that I would be watching or ever see a 3rd Round match after I was robbed of the chance in 2005 when Nuneaton faced Middlesbrough.
    However I did yesterday, went to the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Leicester and Palace.
    I think Leicester will go far and went to the previous 2 Rounds of the Cup Against Stevenage and Dagenham in November/December.
    Also ITV have been far better on coverage terms then the BBC ever will be....also Man Utd havent been on ITV YET!

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  • 8. At 4:48pm on 04 Jan 2009, ForestJedi wrote:

    Phil - you're absolutely right

    Harry Hill is hilarious, oh - and you're right about the FA Cup too.

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  • 9. At 4:52pm on 04 Jan 2009, SalemHanna wrote:

    Interesting comment there, Mr. McNulty. I think the Liverpool players and fans will be keen to beat Everton...but being a Spaniard, Rafa's first priority may well be beating Real Madrid in the Champions League. He'll probably spend more mental energy plotting his tactics for that game than the Everton one.

    Time will tell!!

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  • 10. At 4:55pm on 04 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    I have never experienced the early qualifying games in the FA Cup. What is the experience like for fans of the non-league teams setting out on that journey? What are your hopes and aspirations?

    As for post number 6. Totally disagree...obviously.

    I suspect many fans are happy to devalue the FA Cup once their team has been knocked out of it. They are not so quick when their team is still involved.

    Rest assured, if I supported a team that won the FA Cup I would not be carping about it being devalued or firing cheap shots at the tournament.

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  • 11. At 4:58pm on 04 Jan 2009, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    why isn't it posting

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  • 12. At 5:05pm on 04 Jan 2009, Dan wrote:

    To #4,

    You wrote "It's still the one trophy whose final everyone will watch if they have the chance, every year in May. Even people who don't care about football watch the FA Cup final. It's one of those annual events you just have to experience."

    Are you really sure abou this? Final without a top4 team means something is missing - and that something is callled QUALITY. Remember last year final between Portsmouth & Cardiff? It was a dull 90+ minutes without any spark whatsoever.

    I love football and I go yo matches. I watch MOTD every week. If I am to go out I will set the recorder and watch it when i got home, even at 3am in the morning.

    But I didn't watch the Cup final last year as I was busy doing my garden....

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  • 13. At 5:11pm on 04 Jan 2009, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    I think Liverpool V RealM in the Ch/L is the magic you have been talking about, not
    The FA Cup, from my point of view(I'm from Syria and watch many cups, but you always overrate your team(National) players and FA Cup, just because it's a domestic Cup, you biased tv pundits call it magic, but I say it's 'tragic.
    The Mersyside FA cup clash will lose it's value when Liverpool have to play Everton and Chelsea before and after the tie respectively, so do you think Rafa will be tempted by your sweet words about the FA Cup, will he field a team of Gerrard J.Carragher and Torres, NO!
    It's an ordinary Cup competition and it's getting devalued( ask Rafa who fielded week teams for this cup in the past years), and to us the Liverpool fans !
    We have the feeling that this year is our's, so we see this cup as a disruption ahead of our tie against Chelsea in the League that will have a big say on our title ambitions, with the Real clash next I care less about your aging cup, furthermore we the Liverpool fans are ready to even sacrifice the Champions League in return for the EPL, so you're asking us about the FA cup

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  • 14. At 5:13pm on 04 Jan 2009, MrDanB wrote:

    I agree with McNulty. The FA Cup is magic.

    To me it's never been about the big teams anyway, it's been about the little guys. The FA Cup allows any team and any player to live the dream and be a famous footballer for just one match.

    For many players it's one of the highlights of their careers. Telling their kids about the time they played against Man Utd at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

    It's just a shame there's no Match of the Day this year because Match of the Day is the home of football on TV, no other channel is going to match it's reputation.

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  • 15. At 5:16pm on 04 Jan 2009, GrecianWebb wrote:

    I disagree with no. 6 although find part of his reasoning OK. I suspect his moans (of which some are valid - semi finals at wembley for cashflow reasons only - and some are not - Setanta showing several ties when a terrestorial broadcaster still shows a match on free air to view does not seem too bad) indicates that deep down he still loves the magic of the cup, just that it is not so magical as his memories.

    I think we are in danger, if we don't have already, a two tier football support. You have the Premiership fans and then you have everybody us. I think the way each group espouses its views are different although I still think each group loves the FA Cup but just shows it in different ways.

    For everybody else the third round is probably the best round of the cup. Even if your team has already been knocked out, you watch the results or listen to the radio to see which of the charlie big teams are struggling. I support Exeter City but was still interested to see Torquay excel and can even begrudgingly feel sympathy for Plymouth Gargoyles excellent away support, as deep down even I hoped they beat Arsenal (although I wanted them to win 1-0 or lose 11-0 so I could be happy either way).

    The Premiership fans will role out their usual litany of excuses for defeat - it's more important to stay in the league, challenge for the league, challenge for champions league etc. etc. But the fact these excuses are given hides the fact they are out of a cup they like otherwise they would be completely ambivalent and not offer any opinions as they would not care.

    So, I suspect one group looks at the cup with optimism and the other group looks at it in fear (until of course their big team gets to a final then they change how they speak).

    Finally, with Everton playing Liverpool, to those who doubt the big boy fans do care, notice how the atmosphere at this game will be a lot more special than the week in week out atmospheres at either's ground.

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  • 16. At 5:17pm on 04 Jan 2009, Graham James wrote:

    Following up a later comment, what a bizarre perception that something that relies purely on luck should be pointed to by Mr McNulty as a measure of the weight and significance of the competition. If the fact that Liverpool have drawn Everton is somehow indicative of the magic of the FA Cup then those that promote this romantic notion are relying on the rules of chance to support their somewhat questionable belief. By the rules of probability alone, the draw can usually be relied upon to produce some mouth watering ties (those of us who do not support Liverpool might be equally inspired by Derby county playing Nottingham Forest), but if the draw had failed to produce any exciting looking ties I would find it difficult to use this as an argument for stating that the FA Cup has lost its magic. There are other reasons why the FA Cup has not got the appeal it once had and by the same token it is just ridiculous to point to the draw as evidence that the magic remains.

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  • 17. At 5:18pm on 04 Jan 2009, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    The best thing about your blog Phil is that you interact with us the fans and you post replys to us, so thanks

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  • 18. At 5:19pm on 04 Jan 2009, Mr. Goo wrote:

    "I suspect many fans are happy to devalue the FA Cup once their team has been knocked out of it. They are not so quick when their team is still involved."


    Why do people always trot this out as if it's some kind of double standard? It isn't. It's perfectly logical. When my team gets knocked out of the FA Cup, I get over it pretty quickly because it's just not a priority. But when we get to the latter stages, I obviously want us to go on and have the big day at Wembley and hopefully win it.

    Basically, if we get knocked out, it's no big deal because the FA Cup doesn't matter as much as other trophies. But when we win it, of course I'm chuffed!

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  • 19. At 5:20pm on 04 Jan 2009, matti76 wrote:

    Sorry, but the FA Cup has long since had its day. I can't even remember who Portsmouth beat in the final last year - was it Bristol City or WBA? I used to remember every single thing about finals in the 80's when I first started following the game - goals, commentary, the players sodding about on boating lakes at the hotel, etc.

    It's like fans of a rock group, who are 4 albums past their commercial and creative peak, desperately claiming their heroes are as relevant as ever. Or people who claim snooker still has the public's attention. Life moves on - deal with it.

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  • 20. At 5:23pm on 04 Jan 2009, blondearrow wrote:

    Phil should consider writing a column about how columns about the FA Cup being a national treasure are becoming national treasures in their won right.

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  • 21. At 5:39pm on 04 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    I would be amazed if Benitez fielded a weakened team against Everton in an FA Cup tie.

    If he did and lost, he would not live it down quickly - although I accept it does not pay to try and read Rafa's mind.

    If he did and won Everton would not live it down quickly.

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  • 22. At 5:46pm on 04 Jan 2009, morethansam wrote:

    The magic of the FA Cup shall forever live on in the hearts and souls of football fans across the country.

    It shows how much the BBC cared about retaining the rights of the cup. ITV's coverage of the FA Cup tie between Gillingham V Aston Villa was great, the enthusiasm looked genuine and the emphasis on lower league clubs was good to see.

    Thank god I won't be seeing Manchester United every week with the continous bias ramblings of John Motson on the BBC.

    Long live the FA Cup - Up the Spurs!

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  • 23. At 5:57pm on 04 Jan 2009, GrecianWebb wrote:

    To 12#, if you were gardening rather than watching the cup final then how did you know it was a poor cup final?

    Having a final that is not entertaining because it is two teams outside the big 4 does not point to a lack of quality. It merely points to an individual poor game.
    How many years of poor finals were there before West Ham v Liverpool, yet most of those were between the big teams!

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  • 24. At 6:05pm on 04 Jan 2009, boycey wrote:

    "The Mersyside FA cup clash will lose it's value when Liverpool have to play Everton and Chelsea before and after the tie respectively, so do you think Rafa will be tempted by your sweet words about the FA Cup, will he field a team of Gerrard J.Carragher and Torres, NO!"

    In your dreams, do you really think that Carragher and Gerrard would be happy at missing this match!!! Expect the fat Spanish waiter to put out a full strength team for this game. A Merseyside derby in the FA Cup is what the competition is all about, passion and pride. As you said EL-Liverbird your from Syria, and probably don't understand the importance of the FA Cup as an institution in the English game, like most of your fellow Norwegian fans.

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  • 25. At 6:11pm on 04 Jan 2009, Collydurhamboy wrote:

    The FA Cup has only been devalued by the so called big 4, and teams understandably worried about relegation from the Premiership. But for everybody else it is, and always will be, a great competition. Hartlepools result yesterday,plus Southends and Forest,are results that those fans will remember for ever. Just as I will always remember winning a semi final at Hillsborough in 1974, even better I was at St James's in 1978 when Blyth were finally beaten by Wrexham,having already become the 1st non-league team to go into the draw for the 1/4 finals.
    Ok i also saw the Hereford game, but that's what the Cup is about. The memories,and even the big 4 can't take them away.
    LONG LIVE THE F.A CUP, and if ferguson doesn't like it, he dosn't have to enter.

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  • 26. At 6:28pm on 04 Jan 2009, GA Armstrong wrote:

    The FA Cup is an anachronism which has no place in today's modern game. The Premier League is the only completion that matters and these weekends of FA Cup play interrupt what really counts.

    The Premier League clubs have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Even if my team has a good cup run, it is still a distraction from securing the highest possible placing in the Premier League.

    The FA Cup is just typical of our British mentality; in that we think it is the best in the world just because it is the oldest. The argument about giving the minnows a chance is a false one – Do you really want to see a Crewe vs Northampton FA Cup Final. Why do we have to endure these one-off games which at the end of the day are meaningless.

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  • 27. At 6:32pm on 04 Jan 2009, dandolinho wrote:

    i honestly think that rafa will keep player on the bench for the everton game, saving them for the chelsea game... rafa will never b spoken in the same sentence as the likes of shankly n paisley until he wins the league, he knows this n he'll put more effort into the league game than everton, we wont drop 3 points in that game, we'll just loose face, i hate loosing to everton as much as the next scouser n i love playbing them too, but in the grand scheme of things loosing taht game n keeping a good team up for the chelsea game is more important atm

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  • 28. At 6:34pm on 04 Jan 2009, oxfordscouser wrote:

    I am a Liverpool fan and was lucky enough to go the final in 2006, which was quite arguably the greatest in living memory, and in my mind was equal with Istanbul.

    Our road to the final that year was also one of the most entertaining runs i have ever seen: 5-3 at Luton, 1-0 against Man U and 7-0 against Birmingham spring to mind.

    All of these matches were perfect examples of what FA Cup football is all about and the final itself was full of drama, supreme skill and heart-in-mouth football. When Gerrard scored with just seconds to go i hugged a complete stranger. That is what the FA Cup is all about.

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  • 29. At 6:39pm on 04 Jan 2009, MHJanson wrote:

    Of course some clubs don't take the cup as seriously as they once did because of the influence of continental club competitions but try telling that to Forest Green, or Blyth Spartans, or the likes of Millwall, Southampton, West Ham and Cardiff who have reached the final in recent years. Hell, try telling the fans of the clubs outside the big 4, all 758 of them in this year's competition, that the cup means nothing to them.

    And to #12 who wrote

    "Are you really sure abou this? Final without a top4 team means something is missing - and that something is callled QUALITY. Remember last year final between Portsmouth & Cardiff? It was a dull 90+ minutes without any spark whatsoever."

    Well look at the year before last, when Chelsea played Man Utd. Or when Arsenal played Man U in 2005. So called quality matchups that produced cures for insomnia. There's something about seeing different teams making it to the final and/or winning it.

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  • 30. At 6:45pm on 04 Jan 2009, SuperStrikerShivam wrote:

    Manchester United to win the FA Cup!

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  • 31. At 6:47pm on 04 Jan 2009, corridore wrote:

    We think it is an anachronism? If you are abroad on a day when the FA Cup is on TV, you will see it live on a local channel - not just satellite. It is really popular worldwide.

    I watched last year's final in a very crowded bar in Seoul and the locals were just as keen.

    For most countries, their national cup competition resembles our Carling Cup - low attendences, fringe players etc. But the FA Cup still draws in the crowds.

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  • 32. At 6:49pm on 04 Jan 2009, cheeky_nffc wrote:

    longhornman (comment 26)

    you sir are the living embodiment of all that has gone wrong with our culture. you american lover, slave to marketing.

    4 teams aside, the premiership is a bastian of mediocrity. to suggest that you would gain more pleasure from seeing newcastle attain the heady heights of 14th in the premiership than through a run to wembley shows you for the passionless robot that you are.

    take your obese, malnourished kids to mcdonalds for a treat, take them of your depressed wifes hands for a bit.

    heres to the magic of the cup ;-)

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  • 33. At 6:50pm on 04 Jan 2009, dhimmi wrote:

    "the FA Cup, in his eyes, is finished. The glory days, or the glory glory days as he would call them, are gone."


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  • 34. At 6:54pm on 04 Jan 2009, mattexe wrote:

    I think post #15 hit onto a good point by saying there's two tiers of supporters. It does seem that there are a number of people who only follow the big clubs who have lost an interest in the FA Cup. However, the vast majority of fans outside this bracket see it as an essential element of English football.

    Any competition that allows the small teams to play against the big boys is magical. I'm an Exeter City fan and one of my greatest memories was going to Old Trafford a few years ago and seeing our team come away with a draw. We then got to see Man United's big guns at home (Who'd have dreamt of watching Rooney and Ronaldo at St James Park!), but even then they could only beat us 2 - 0. As well as the stories for the grandchildren, these two games saved our club from bankruptcy and going out of business. Tell me that isn't magic.

    The followers of bigger teams might put the FA Cup behind the Premiership and the Champions League, but I find it arrogant to say it's lost its magic. For the vast majority of the football community in the country - from your lowest levels of non-league up into the professional divisions - the FA Cup provides hope and dreams and glory, and isn't that what football is all about?

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  • 35. At 7:01pm on 04 Jan 2009, Mike Martin wrote:


    I agree, the FA Cup is still special. I support Stockport and Chelsea and would rather win the FA Cup than get promoted / finish 2nd instead of 4th. You don't get a trophy for qualifying for the Champions League, and winning silverware is what football should be about.

    I think ITV's coverage has been excellent, with the caveat that they have fewer matches than the BBC did. The only change I'd make is to bring back semi-final replays, maybe to be played at Old Trafford or the Millennium Stadium.

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  • 36. At 7:12pm on 04 Jan 2009, rushies-right-boot wrote:

    The FA Cup is a great competition. I'm really looking forward to Liverpool's cup-tie with Everton - can't beat a cup derby match for atmosphere! I'm sure that the fans of Forest and Derby will be relishing their 4th round clash, as well.

    People who have a downer on the FA Cup have no soul.

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  • 37. At 7:13pm on 04 Jan 2009, Redthemadsheep2001 - LUHG wrote:

    i may be a big 4 fan (united), but to me the FA Cup is still magic.THough i understand SAF's reasoning, I get annoyed whenever we we field a weaker team, knowing full well that any team would absolutely love to knock us out, and im still gutted whenever we dont win. I watched gillingham vs villa today at home, and it was brilliant watching them going toe to toe with villa, to the point i was on the edge of my seat hoping gillingham got a last minute equaliser. These are two teams that i nethier follow or care much about, so why i was so dissappointed when gillingham lost?

    For me thats the magic of the Fa cup

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  • 38. At 7:14pm on 04 Jan 2009, vancouveral wrote:

    I haven`t lived in England for  40 years so it is sad to hear that the FA Cup has lost it`s luster. I well remember my trips to Wembley in 1965 and 1966 to see Liverpool and Everton win the trophy. Those were fantastic trips to the Capital as we made them into weekends we would talk about for ever. In 1966 when Everton won the Cup Liverpool won the League and both supporters were in heaven.                       The third round starting in January was always very exciting and became more exciting as our team progressed. When they were eliminated we would always say " at least now we can concentrate on the League". Sad to think that those days aregone.                                                                     

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  • 39. At 7:17pm on 04 Jan 2009, william harper wrote:

    so a liverpool v everton cup tie will be just another run of the mill game eh!,try getting a ticket,same at derby v forest, a sell out. and while we are on the subject try telling a forest ,hartlepool or a southend supporter that the fa cup has lost it's magic they'd tell you go away in no uncertain terms,long may it continue and phil if you want to go to see a team play football get a ticket for the millwall/crewe replay.

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  • 40. At 7:18pm on 04 Jan 2009, spiritualwolf wrote:

    I'd love to get excited about the FA Cup... but those penny-pinchers on the Board of Birmingham City who've failed to install under-soil heating ruined the weekend for us Wolves fans, and mean that everything feels a bit empty right now....

    ....but it IS a great competition!

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  • 41. At 7:26pm on 04 Jan 2009, rubsley wrote:

    Why do you think unlanced boils are funny? I don't think unlanced boils are funny.

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  • 42. At 7:33pm on 04 Jan 2009, Caulky wrote:

    what devalued it for me was in the 2003 final when Henry thought it would be clever to hold the ball up in the corner flag to time waste in the 75 minute! also that year Arsenal never had A FA cup parade though Islington, it was cancelled. How sad as that was the only thing they won that season!
    Also ITV doing the draw before all the games have been played again!

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  • 43. At 7:34pm on 04 Jan 2009, gaz_hogg wrote:

    sorry but even these so called two tier football fans, im a Man U fan and wen we went out last year i was gutted, and wen we lost to chelski - gutted, so big 4 fans many actualy do want to win this, + it doesnt meen much to the teams and managers . . hmm . . try telling tht to SAF last year wen he and Quieroz had to explain there rants at going out over the red decision yep they rolled over and accepted it ermm not . .

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  • 44. At 7:40pm on 04 Jan 2009, brisolbilly wrote:

    Well, I'm a Pompey fan and the competition gave me the day out I waited 32 years for. To those who denigrate the cup, write to your club and tell them you don't want to enter it this year or ever again. That way you can leave football to those who actually care about the sport. To the same people I would like to remind you that there is life outside the endless Top Four media circus, in fact it is a vibrant life brimming with its own passions and dreams. If all you think of football is the Top Four and the CL then you have the blinkers on that Sky want you to have, good luck to you because I think you're extremely poor in terms of football experience. In that 32 years I saw my modest club rise from the bottom division to win one of only 3 competitions available to us each year, only two of which we could have realistically won. If the rest of the English (and Welsh) teams in the leagues bore you by competing against each other ,please, just sod off and let us get on with having a great time.

    Play Up Pompey

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  • 45. At 7:45pm on 04 Jan 2009, SuttonDave wrote:

    The FA Cup may be undervalued by the "big" clubs but for many it remains one of the highlights of the season.

    As a Sutton United fan it provides that one moment each season where we're guaranteed a mention on the tele for beating Coventry back in 1989.

    This season, we came through 4 qualifying rounds to get to the first round, losing 1-0 at home to Notts County, a side three divisions above us. After a shocking couple of seasons on the pitch, the excitement the cup run generated at the club was huge - and this is the same thing that makes the cup great for most supporters around the country.

    Whether like me, your hope is that you can make the competition proper and beat a pro side or whether, as a Championship or L1/2 fan, you're looking for an odds-defying run to the latter stages of the competition, we're after that same thing - a bit of glory for the club we support through thick and thin.

    If I supported a Prem team, I'd go into everyone season wanting to win the FA Cup and I'm sure that's still true of most Prem fans, even if weakened teams suggest it doesn't top the clubs' priorities.

    But whatever other fans think of the FA Cup, I love it, and look forward to it every season.

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  • 46. At 7:46pm on 04 Jan 2009, mblooman2001 wrote:

    Ok heres a question to all:

    Is the FA Cup as glorified as it was pre-Premier League?

    To me its a No. The reasons being numerous. It started with the formation of the Premier League. This led to more money being input to the league thus making league position more important, in terms of revenue. Then came the formation of the Champions league. This really put a dent in the FA Cup as even more money meant that this is the trophy everyone aspires to, and why not??

    I did prefer having the Cup Winners Cup as that was a more exclusive cup to win. I remember the first European final i watched was Man Utc v Barcelona in the 1991 CWC Final. If this competition was around today, these 2 teams would never be in it!

    Though with the FA Cup you can play teams in ur country down 3 or 4 divisions above/below ur own league. Which is going to be interesting, but perhaps lacks quality compared to say an Arsenal v Barcelona type game. So for the viewers, the Champions league will contain better quality (obviously i'm not talking about EVERY game, just a generalisation).

    Does the FA cup still have "magic?" Just ask Liverpool and Chelsea conquerers Barnsley.

    Though ticket prices tend to be higher than Premiership games which is another reason why attendances are down, especially as season ticket holders have to pay extra.

    Regarding 2nd string players, Man Utd played a few reserves against Southamption - a team that are struggling in the Championship. If your team are Champions, in the champions league, and are in the top 4 of the Premiership, surely u can't be afraid to use ur reserves to take on a side like Southampton. An away visit to Gillingham is a more trickier issue (crampt pitch, bobbling surface, hostile atmosphere).

    So i think in the context of Phil McNulty's column that he fails to acknowledge recent events that have affected the FA cup.

    His quote "It is still a competition that provides lifelong memories if your teams wins it" is laughable. Ask Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal fans to recount any of their FA Cup Final appearances since 1995 and you'll find fans struggling to recount them (aside from maybe the great games of Liverpool v West Ham, Liverpool v Arsenal when Owen scored twice, or the abysmal Man Utd v Chelsea FA cup final at "new" Wembley.

    Mr McNulty then states: "It is still the competition that gives you anxiety when your team draws opponents from the lower or non-league". Maybe this is true of a team other than the "Big Four". I know watching Aston Villa v Gillingham how nervous Villa were. But then the big four fear no one, aside from maybe each other.

    So the FA cup is no longer what it once is. Is it exciting? Yes. Is it a national treasure? Not really, considering the fact its on ITV and Setanta i really couldn't care less about the FA Cup this year as both Channels have such appaulingly bad coverage (Anyone who think Setanta or ITV have better coverage needs their head checked!). But is the FA Cup still exciting? For Sure.

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  • 47. At 8:07pm on 04 Jan 2009, Caulky wrote:

    The odd thing about the FA cup that up until 1989 only the final was on TV both BBC 1 and ITV. In 1989/90 the BBC showed both semis live and I don't think it was until 1991/92 season that sky brought the rights and started to show matches from round 3 onwards. This meant that nearly all the matches were played at 3pm on Saturday except the ones that had to be rearranged for Police safety reasons if 2 local teams had home ties. Although both Saints and Pompey played their 4th round matches at home on the same day at 3pm last season which must be A first!

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  • 48. At 8:09pm on 04 Jan 2009, WebbyFoxes wrote:

    Phil - I know what its like to go to a Qualifying Rounds of the Cup as pointed out.
    I went to 5 FA Cup rounds at Nuneaton Borough and to go in August to an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round is very unusual.
    You go there, a few hundred are there and you know that the team wont get to the final but the FA Cup is special.
    Maybe next year McNulty, come to Liberty Way for a FA Cup Qualifying game, the FA Cup games at Nuneaton are brilliant what ever the result, you wont be disappionted!

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  • 49. At 8:27pm on 04 Jan 2009, spherophile wrote:

    yeap, the FA Cup is the beautifullest of them all (even though Italians think their football is the best!).

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  • 50. At 8:41pm on 04 Jan 2009, gringo Loco wrote:

    No 38
    May 1968, the ball comes to Astle on the edge of the box, he strikes it with his left foot. the result is

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  • 51. At 8:46pm on 04 Jan 2009, BognorRock wrote:

    To me the magic of the Cup never went. The great thing about the FA Cup is that it is exciting and unpredictable right from the qualifying rounds to the final. Who'd have thought last season that Havant would take the lead twice at Anfield or that the final would be between Pompey and Cardiff.

    Those who say the magic has gone from the FA Cup are just the typical 'modern football is rubbish' brigade. Every year they thankfully get proved wrong.

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  • 52. At 8:52pm on 04 Jan 2009, gringo Loco wrote:

    No 38
    May 1968, the ball comes to Astle on the edge of the box, he strikes it with his left foot. the result is
    1 He falls on his a*se, as he should have done
    2 it goes for a throw in, as it could have done
    3 It flies into the top right corner for the cup winning goal.

    Yes, i'm a baggies fan, expat to boot.

    The coverage of the final here in the 3rd world is poor, with no preamble, just starting coverage as the teams are ready for the kickoff. no anthems, no "Abide with me". I still wouldn't miss it.

    Yes some games are of mediocre quality, but how many of each EPL teams 38 lerague matches are likewise?

    Tell me who devalues the cup? 3rd round, 2 of the great EPL players came on a subs, Torres and Rooney. Yes both LFC and MUFC fielded weaker than normal teams, but still stronger teams than they put out in the last ECL games. I reckon of the MUFC team only 5 would start if it had been a league game against LFC, but still good enough to win through to the next round.

    You one eyed one club supporters, who think the FA cup is a waste of time, you are not football fans.

    If you want the real majic back in the FA cup, support UEFA's plans to make the 4th qualifying ECL place, the winners of the FA cup.

    Football is too much about money.

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  • 53. At 8:52pm on 04 Jan 2009, ElectricHeron wrote:

    You can’t possibly expect some of the armchair or 'so called' supporters to love the FA Cup as much as the proper fans do. All they know is the pure greed of the bloated Premier League. There are those who state that the Prem and CL are priorities. It wasn’t always the case. Even sadder are the likes of Hull, Stoke and Reading. What is the ultimate goal for these clubs? To (get to) and stay mid-table in the top flight? They will never win the League or finish top 4. Even if they get to the UEFA Cup, which is the best they can hope for, they will play weakened sides, so that they can concentrate of staying in the Prem for another season. What a sad, miserable, pointless existence that is. Instead of actually going full throttle for a cup run and possible victory, which will ensure glory and memories (all that really matters for us as football fans in the long term), they play weakened sides and chance going out, so that they can tread water for ever and ever. I feel sorry for them and have lost all respect for the likes of Brown, Coppell and Pulis. English mangers who should have been aware of the heritage and history of this wonderful competition. Sadly, football is now a business, nothing more. The FA Cup still means the world to an awful lot of people but the more managers, clubs and ‘fans’ who treat it poorly, the more it is devalued. Those bad-mouthing the Cup, feel free to keep your Premier and Champions League. Enjoy your preening, overrated, overpaid, prima donnas dancing around the football pitch, people who don’t give you a second thought, when they’re sitting in their mansions and driving their super-cars. Personally, I’d rather watch a cup competation which still retains some of the drama, romance, tradition and love of the game.

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  • 54. At 8:54pm on 04 Jan 2009, Villa606 wrote:

    I think that it's really sad that BBC have sold the rights to ITV because I always loved the cup on BBC... I'm glad the F1 has come to BBC though. I hate clubs that field weakened teams in the FA cup because it devalues it. I like to see a Torquay or Kettering get to the Semi-Finals but as a Villa fan I obviously want Villa to win the FA cup!

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  • 55. At 9:23pm on 04 Jan 2009, l00py wrote:

    Much as though I hate the fact, the FA Cup just doesn't mean what it did 25 years ago.

    When I was a kid it was pretty much the equivalent of winning the league. There's no where near that level of importance placed on it now.

    There is still the fun of seeing teams from different divisions/leagues going head to head, but that doesn't make up for it's loss in value.

    The key change has been the champions league. With only one team qualifying for the old European Cup, big teams had to take the FA Cup (and a route in to the Cup Winners Cup) seriously. Nowdays it's all about finishing in the top four.

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  • 56. At 9:27pm on 04 Jan 2009, l00py wrote:

    lol, just read post #53

    I'm (obviously) an armchair supporter!

    Have to say that I take your point, it's a fair one.

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  • 57. At 9:33pm on 04 Jan 2009, levdavidovich wrote:

    The FA Cup is a cheap route into the UEFA Cup. Almost always (last year being an exception) the losing finalist gets the Europen place - remember when Millwall got into Europe via the FA Cup! Ludicrous!

    Last year's FA Cup was a farce

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  • 58. At 9:36pm on 04 Jan 2009, Jim wrote:

    To any fan trying to see a match at all 92 league grounds the FA cup is a fantastic way of filling the gaps if you are trying to do the 92 watching the same team.

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  • 59. At 9:44pm on 04 Jan 2009, trentend_FOGHORN wrote:

    People can say what they like about the cup losing it's value and ok some of the big teams do put out weakened teams, but apart from portsmouth last year it has been one of the big four that has always won it in recent years.

    As a Nottingham Forest fan that lives in London yet still goes to most games the FA cup gives us a restbite from the precarious position we are in the League.

    I went to Manchester yesterday hoping that we were not embarressed and would put in a good performance and we go and win 3-0 we have won by 4 goals all season. I won't forget yesterday for a LONG LONG time. 6000 forest fans singing and dancing, dreaming of a cup final in wembley it was the magic that is the FA cup.

    Also the FA cup draw today looking at the teams coming out willing a team from London if i am honest never thinking about Derby away, then with only 4 teams left out came derby i held my breath can we really get them YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

    running round the lounge on the phone to my mates thinking of going back to pride park not only to qualify for the 5th round, but also to win the Clough cup.

    Don't tell me the FA cup has lost it's magic!

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  • 60. At 10:09pm on 04 Jan 2009, Sasuke_nffc wrote:

    The FA cup is still a fabulous competition. 3 years ago I spent 8 hours in total on various forms of transport in order to stand in the bitterly cold winds and rain at the Deva stadium in Chester to watch my team (Nottingham Forest) be comprehensively beaten 3 - 0. You know what? I'd do it again in an instant....

    You never know when a tie like Man City is going to turn up and leave you absolutely elated after 90 minutes because your players play out of their skin....

    And to all the people who think it's boring not to have one of the "big 4" teams in the in the Football League is infinitely more exciting than in the Premiership. There are always goals, always excitement and always a sense that on the day anybody can beat anybody.....

    That last part is obviously just like the FA cup itself...

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  • 61. At 10:34pm on 04 Jan 2009, Jack wrote:

    As long as smaller teams are playing bigger teams, and beating the bigger teams, it will always be a fantastic competition.

    Recently in the later stages it was becoming too predictable but the shocks last year, and the absence of even one of the big four in the semis, made it arguably the best FA Cup ever. I think it will be a long time before we see only one premiership team in the semis again.

    One thing that has dampened it a little this season is ITV's awful coverage. They started well with highlights of FGR - Derby then one of the shocks of the round (Forest - Man City) was mentioned in passing. Apart from a few matches all we saw from each game was just the goals. So I have no idea whether Chelsea drew with Southend because of poor finishing, bad luck, inspired defending, whatever. All I know is that Kalou scored for Chelsea then Southend equalised late on with a header.

    For me the FA Cup cannot come back to the beeb soon enough. To be honest even channel five could do a better job. Sorry if that sounds too much like a rant but it was something which really spoiled the third round for me.

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  • 62. At 11:08pm on 04 Jan 2009, shaun78 wrote:

    Love the FA cup sunderland into the fourth round at last for the first time in three years i took my nephew to the game he is only 6 and he loved it his first memeory of a football match will be a win and he now has a compettion to keep him intreseted in following sunderland for the next few months. as for mill wall levdavidovich they deserved their chance they won their matches including beating us in the semi finals at old trafford that is how the cup works your team on the day if your team dosent fancy it on amuddy pitch or handle a tough tackleing team three divisions below them then tough you bow your way into europe you blow your chance to play in the only televised football game that day somebody else goes into floklore. Its just a shame thet the FA blew things with their ever grasping for cash with a now synonomous london wembley forever tarnished in many peoples mind some how more seats mean less for fans of the teams than the old wembley but pop stars and over rich market traders can eat prawn caviar and swig champers with absolutley no idea of the event they are witnessing. lets hope this years results are as good as last years keeping the competition interesting and alive with premier league mid table up for grabs securing your chance into europe with the cup wouldnt be bad thing to spice things up.

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  • 63. At 11:31pm on 04 Jan 2009, Giggs4more wrote:

    If I have to say so myself, I'm glad it has been de-valued to the top four. If they were to take it like they do champions league knockoutr stages then it would be almost boring like much of the title race is nowadays.

    They think it is less important,


    they play weaker teams and are more lax, with their approach,


    the chances of an upset is greater for teams, who do give it their all,


    the magic is kept alive!

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  • 64. At 00:01am on 05 Jan 2009, fredbloggs460 wrote:

    My simple and basic comment is about being a young boy watching Liverpool lose in 1971 I became a Liverpool fan forever and Steve Heighway inspired me to become a number 9 centre-forward. I watched every final in England and followed them religiously in Canada.

    I love the FA Cup and its drama and always will.

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  • 65. At 00:02am on 05 Jan 2009, fredbloggs460 wrote:

    How much the FA Cup means to me

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  • 66. At 00:15am on 05 Jan 2009, showUsYerHands wrote:

    You're right McNulty.

    The FA is magic, and it is a national institution. It is the best and most fervently followed domestic league cup in the world.

    Long live the FA Cup.

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  • 67. At 00:20am on 05 Jan 2009, Middle14 wrote:

    No 61 - I can't agree more! As a Southend fan, I awoke eagerly at 9.25 to see the Sunday morning highlights on ITV.... what a disappointment! I wanted to see Chelsea dominating safe in the knowledge that it would all turn out all fantastically in the end! Not a happy chappy at all!

    I think the main advantage MOTD has over ITV is that they have so many more proper commentators so they can be much more flexible in what order and to what details the highlights will be shown, whereas ITV seem to guess at which will be good games, such as having extended highlights of the Hull-Newcastle game near the end because they thought it would be good but turned out to be 0-0!

    I'm just glad someone else noticed this poor attempt to try and show the magic of the FA Cup.

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  • 68. At 00:47am on 05 Jan 2009, GA Armstrong wrote:

    With reference to Comment 32 from : "cheeky_nffc_we're **** and we know we are"

    I find it interesting that you say that I am living embodiment of all that has gone wrong with our culture; while at the same time insulting me.

    Your comment is in fact everthing that is wrong in the world today, which is a refusal to accept an alternative point of view. What chance does the world have for peace when you throw insults over a comment about a football tournament, which just happens to be different to yours.

    Give me Newcastle versus Manchester United in the Premier League rather than Millwall in the FA Cup any day.

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  • 69. At 00:50am on 05 Jan 2009, No1_Sports_Pundit wrote:

    #61 and #67 - Definitly agree, I found myself bored of ITV's highlights on sunday night. Too much talking on the couch and not enough football by far.

    The excitement and "magic" of the F.A. Cup definitly lives on. 5th round of the cup AND the brian clough trophy at stake at Pride Park? I'd give my right arm to be there

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  • 70. At 01:09am on 05 Jan 2009, gunnerslover2007 wrote:

    A lot of people have been slagging off last years final without any "big 4", saying it lacked quality, big names and spectacle. Well it may have lacked the first two but it was still a good watch far better then the defensive, negative "big 4" showdown the previous year was one of the worse I've watched. In fact if I hope for anything for this years final it wil be for a "big 4" vrs. smaller club, these tend to produce the most exciting encounters.

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  • 71. At 01:15am on 05 Jan 2009, tarquin wrote:

    Of the big 4 teams sent out this year only United rested players - and tbh I think that's justified with their rather full fixture list next week, they gave their second string keepers a go but I think that's fair enough

    Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal (no idea which kids are first team these days tho) and Villa all sent out strong squads, Stoke rather bizarrely seem to have been the only weakened side

    I think the 'excitement' of the cup is 1) nostalgia, ie the mythical 'good old days' and 2) the formation of the premier league and increasing commercialism has placed worldwide focus on the top league, diminishing the status of the cup somewhat

    however I still feel the average fan and team are still in love with the cup

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  • 72. At 01:19am on 05 Jan 2009, tarquin wrote:

    oh yeah - ITVs coverage was woeful

    they don't know what they're doing with the highlights, they had background noise drowning out the studio, dodgy camera work in the second round and of course, andy townsend - oh and they televise less games on terrestrial

    problem is we have to watch so how do we get the message across that we wouldn't be if we had the choice? I wouldn't have wanted to miss either the liverpool or villa games just out of protest

    at least with the world cup we can shame them by giving the bbc an 80% share of the same game

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  • 73. At 01:41am on 05 Jan 2009, Jack wrote:

    I must admit the Coupe de France certainly runs the FA Cup close for the title of 'best domestic cup'.

    The big sides are entered early in when there are loads of small sides left, the lower team plays at home and the tie is decided on the day - no chance for the big team to have a more comfortable replay at their place.

    There are always shocks, last year Marseilles lost to a fourth division side, and of course who can forget when non-league Calais reached the final in 2000.

    Personally for me the FA Cup is special, every year I hope my team gets a good run together and possibly draw a league team (we nearly played Huddersfield a few seasons back), but I feel France's equivalent certainly deserves a mention.

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  • 74. At 02:13am on 05 Jan 2009, DickyG wrote:

    Although there are several ways to cut the argument, as far as I can tell the hypothesis is that the FA Cup has lost its magic for all who are interested in and follow football. My view is that for many of the highly-paid foreign players, managers and owners of Premiership clubs then sadly yes, the FA Cup may not mean as much to them as it probably should. However as the comments on this blog overwhelmingly seem to prove, the majority of fans still feel passionately about this oldest and most special of all domestic cups. As a QPR fan who has not seen his side progress from the 3rd round for 7 years and yet had the joy of seeing them drawn to play Chelsea last season it means an awful lot. I can't comment on TV coverage as an expat I have to suffer the disjointed coverage of a non-footy loving broadcaster but I don't think who shows it on tv can have that much influence in how the competition as a whole is perceived. I waited for our result this weekend with much more excitement than I did our recent league results; similarly I was first on the web to check who we might get in the 4th round. Years ago I also used to watch my local non-league side battle it out in the qualifying rounds hoping they'd get a plum tie against League opposition or maybe their local rivals. I can't really explain dwindling crowds - only 8,800 watched QPR v Burnley but I'd like to think those who do go are the real fans, for whom the passion for the Cup remains. The glory boys, the bandwagoners can stay at home. For those who remember life before the Premiership, the Cup has all the magic it's always had.

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  • 75. At 02:53am on 05 Jan 2009, kannonball510 wrote:

    The FA Cup is the 'real thing'.
    There's no competition like it , the world over, that proves that on any one day, eleven men line up against eleven men, and anything can happen. It doesn't matter what each player's wage packet is. Whoever is stronger, and craftier, on the day will win. That's my vote for the earlier rounds when the magic can mean that a team of policemen, waiters and carpenters can beat the best that the football academies have spent ten years developing in classrooms and on astroturf.
    As for the Final, sometimes it's a great game,
    sometimes it's crap. But all us ex-pats around the world arise at un-godly hours to watch it 'live' in peculiar pubs in unexpected places, and wear our silly colors. The FA Cup is great.

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  • 76. At 03:53am on 05 Jan 2009, milesfrombeach wrote:

    A cup tournament is a cup, a league is a league

    Any team can beat any other given a little luck, a lot of heart and a smattering of ability. This is the beauty of a cup competition. Until the man in black blows, you've a chance, no matter who you're drawn against

    This was one of the reasons I was very pro-Platini when he ran for the presidency, he was all about taking the European Cup back to a proper cup competition. Group phases massively favour the richer teams with the bigger squads, but in a true cup competition you shouldn't be allowed to relax as you've now qualified

    Is it my imagination or did clubs used to get fined for putting out understrength sides, regardless of the competition, why doesn't that happen anymore?

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  • 77. At 04:04am on 05 Jan 2009, spursteve73 wrote:

    Love the FA cup. Exeter holding Man U. Bootiful!!

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  • 78. At 04:10am on 05 Jan 2009, SCBrazil wrote:

    As a UK ex-pat (15 years in Brazil), there's no way you could say the FA Cup is anywhere near as close in importance as the PL. The 'English' PL is really global now whereas the FA Cup is cherished only by the English. All countries have similar competitions and the opportunities for David to kill Goliath is great entertainment locally. But no more than that. Boards of directors, managers and even players, play with the global fan$ in mind.
    As a kid, I always wanted my team to win the FA Cup over the (then) League (we came a close second to Spurs in '81) but to the movers and shakers of English football and those who bring it to the masses, the money (and therefore importance) is on the PL and CL. Ask any manager which one he would rather have on his CV. Ask any fan today which trophy he would rather his team lift.
    That said, the Wembley atmosphere on final day is fantastic. It's a one off and also a prelude to summer and the good feelings that go with it. FA Cup final day is a national institution, even outside of football (emphasis on 'national'). Round three attendances may be dwindling, but the attendance come May will be the highest ANY of the teams have had in any match all season. And you have to get through the round ones, twos and threes to get there.
    As for talk of the big four not taking it seriously, winning BOTH PL and FA is really the only true test of a GREAT team. Liverpool may be clamouring for the PL this season and will surely gloat if they get it, but really they need to set their sights on both to truly get on their high horse and have anybody listen. In that sense, for historic glory, it is AS important. From decade to decade, people only remember teams that did the double.
    And ask Arsene if he won't be taking it seriously this year. With no chance of PL, an outside chance of CL, FA silverware may just keep him in a job.
    P.S. Will someone please do something about Mark Hughes.

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  • 79. At 04:16am on 05 Jan 2009, manucastle wrote:

    It's that time of the year again - when a much-loved colleague advances with a tabloid in his hand jabbing a ""figure"" angrily at dwindling attendances for FA Cup third round matches.

    There is no hiding from the fact that FA cup is devalued.

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  • 80. At 06:57am on 05 Jan 2009, Knight_Wasnt_Zat_Bad wrote:

    Some suggestions to help everyone take the FA Cup with the seriousness it deserves.

    1. Scrap the League Cup - what is the point of having two knock out competitions? one just detracts from the other so bin the one with no history or tradition.

    2. Give the winner one of the four places in the Champions League. You never know, a non-big four may still win the FA cup under this arrangement and this would provide some financial levelling in the English game when such a team participates in the CL and gets the related windfall. Might add to the interest of the CL as well, seeing a different team or two in it, from time to time.

    3. Abolish semis at Wembley as that was a pathetic idea.

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  • 81. At 07:22am on 05 Jan 2009, DoctorBoroLove wrote:

    The FA Cup is not devalued. It is still the greatest national club competition in the world.

    Declining attendances? 7,000 Barrow supporters turned up in Middlesbrough on Saturday. More than any opposing premiership side could ever muster; more than ManU (mind you, Glory Hunters don't travel); probably more than any home Barrow game.

    To the vast majority of reall football supporters it is not devalued at all; it just depends on your perspective and what kind of chair you sit in when you watch a game.

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  • 82. At 09:04am on 05 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    To Post 80...I would have no objection whatsoever to the winners of the FA Cup being handed a place in the Champions League qualifying stage at the expense of the fourth-placed Premier League team.

    In fact I would welcome it. Not sure what Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal would think, but I reckon it is a superb idea.

    Any thoughts?

    I also would support the idea of moving the semi-finals back to club grounds rather than staging them at Wembley.

    The only drawback is less tickets for supporters, but I have always felt having semi-finals at Wembley just takes a little something away from final itself.

    The great prize should be played for at Wembley. I would prefer semi-finals on neutral club grounds.

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  • 83. At 09:22am on 05 Jan 2009, bigbizzo77 wrote:

    I think credit where its due liverpool played a full strength team against preston, and to the fella who said last years final was boring as never had any team from top four, what about the year before, the much hyped first final at the new wembly between chelsea and man utd boring boring boring

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  • 84. At 09:23am on 05 Jan 2009, croydonrich wrote:

    20 years ago, winning the FA cup was second only to winning the title. Now it is far more important to a club to finish 4th in the league, and the clubs and (most) fans to their credit understand this.

    Ask a villa fan. If they finish 4th this year, they have the chance to try and cement themselves as a top club, to keep their best players, and to try and build a side that can win the title. Win the FA cup and you have a trophy, but it does not help you build your club. If you dont have aspirations of ever winning the title thats fine -- but for those that do like Spurs, Villa, Everton, Newcastle --- the priority is clear.

    for those already in the top 4, the FA cup is a second rate trophy. In particular Rafa would be mad to field his best XI against Everton -- Liverpool have their best chance in almost 20 years to win the title -- does he really want to risk injury to his players, as well as adding to the inevitable fixture congestion if they progress in the far more important champions league ?? Much better for liverpool if they get knocked out now, and let their players take a break while United compete on 4 fronts.

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  • 85. At 09:56am on 05 Jan 2009, whatbill wrote:

    The FA cup is a great trophy - its less important than the Premiership or the Champions league but that's always been the case - liverpool hardly won it in the 70s despite dominating domestic and european football but no-one moaned then. In fact, the modern cup probably peaked in the late 80s/early 90s when english clubs were banned from european football so there were less trophies to go for.

    The reason the premiership teams appear less bothered about it now is simple - cash. The rewards of staying in the premier league and/or qualifying for europe mean that they often field weakened teams in the early rounds, especially against lower division opposition.

    However, as Phil says, once teams get through a couple of rounds and realise they're still in it, suddenly it takes on a different context. Liverpool fans are quite happy to use their 2006 success as proof of Rafa's managerial credentials and as a United fan it was gutting to go out to Portsmouth last year and lose to chelsea the year before. No its not as important as the Premiership - but it never has been...

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  • 86. At 10:07am on 05 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    All this talk of "boring" finals is something I cannot buy into.

    There may be some that have been boring to an outsider, but I do not recall any fan being bored by an FA Cup Final win for their team.

    Fair point from whatbill in post 85...should we start knocking FA Cup Final wins off managerial records because it's not actually up to much as a competition any more?

    Don't think so.

    As you rightly point out, Liverpool's win in 2006 is very much part of Benitez's cv.

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  • 87. At 10:34am on 05 Jan 2009, Why_Why_Why_Delilah wrote:

    I read up to ElectricHeron's comments and just got incensed! Sad existence? Nah mate, far from it. Even on our current poor form we're loving here - every minute of it. It shows with our attendances, atmosphere, everything about the club.

    Your right, every club should go for it in every competition there in. Its the chance to grab some silverware - I couldn't agree more. That's why we went for it in the League Cup. We got to the quarters and the feeling about the place that we have a genuine shot at the semi's of a cup was brilliant and put in a shocking performance against Derby, and deserved to lose (even though it was a dubious penalty in the final minute). I personally was gutted we hadn't taken what was a great opportunity to get to the semi finals of a major competition.

    As for the FA Cup this weekend; this journo makes it sound as though we dropped the whole first 11. To be honest, our team was pretty much the strongest we could have fielded (worrying I know that we still couldn't beat Hartlepool with all due respect). It wasn't as if we deliberately put out a weakened side. Anyway, we stokies don't expect decent research from the journo's anywhere. We basically put in a woeful performance and Hartlepool deserved to win.

    Oh the sooner these debates about the FA cup losing its magic/being devalued etc, stop, the better. They are getting a bit tedious. They have popped up consistently for the last few years around this time.

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  • 88. At 10:46am on 05 Jan 2009, royofthe wrote:

    "At the other end of the scale Histon, Torquay, Kettering and Blyth will bring that wonderful element of the unknown to the next stage of the FA Cup."

    Err as far as I'm aware Blyth have to beat Blackburn tonight first before bringing said element to the next stage

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  • 89. At 11:01am on 05 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    I am also aware that Blyth have to beat Blackburn in tonight's third round tie - and suspect they may be quite excited by the prospect of a derby meeting with Sunderland if they win.

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  • 90. At 11:07am on 05 Jan 2009, gringo Loco wrote:

    What a sad, miserable, pointless existence that is. Instead of actually going full throttle for a cup run and possible victory, which will ensure glory and memories.

    There are teams who just make up the numbers, but passionately.

    Leeds tried to compete and look what happened. They went bankrupt and are now in what league?

    The cup is a great leveler, unless you're talking about Yeovil's pitch.

    Let the big 4 and the relegation fighting teams put out weaker teams, it gives the others a chance. Let's just see the players competing. There's nothing better than a competitive match, no matter who is playing.

    Go Blyth, play with heart, anything can is possible if you believe.

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  • 91. At 11:09am on 05 Jan 2009, eye360 wrote:

    Those who say the big 4 don't take it seriously, just look at the winners and finalists since the Premiership started in 92. Only Portsmouth last year and Everton (95) have won it outside of the big 4. But if you look at winners going back before then, they were much more often outside the top 4 teams. Liverpool in the 70s and 80s were notoriously poor in the cup when winning all their league titles.

    So to say the big teams don't take it seriously is a bit of a myth.

    There's also a myth that the Premiership is so much stronger than the rest of the league. Last season, IIRC, 9 teams went out in the 3rd round, and 3 of the 4 semi-finalists were Championship sides. Even in the depths of non-league football the quality and professionalism has improved a lot.

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  • 92. At 11:34am on 05 Jan 2009, Tony Doyle wrote:

    Re #13.

    For Liverpool's 3rd rd game via Preston, Rafa picked a really strong 11, with only the goalkeeper and Babel coming in. This is the first 3rd match Gerrard and Carragher have played in for 2/3 years now (if my memory serves me correct).

    I personally think Rafa now knows how important this trophy is, and if you think he's going to field a poor team against the blue half of the city, then you need to wake up.

    I love the FA cup, it's as good as football gets. Gillingham were brilliant against Villa, and lived up to the classic underdog status. Loved it.

    Long live the FA Cup.

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  • 93. At 11:42am on 05 Jan 2009, HouseSpartan wrote:

    As a Blyth Spartans fan my interest usually ends when we get knocked out in the qualifying rounds.

    The only real difference this year is that we have progressed a lot futher than we usually do.

    For clubs at our level there still is a certain amount of magic involved with the FA Cup - but only if you draw a League team.

    I feel that most Premiership teams do not care about the Cup.

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  • 94. At 11:43am on 05 Jan 2009, RetiredNo6 wrote:

    The best moment of my football career was scoring a winning goal in the FA Cup extra preliminary round 4 or 5 years ago. I sprinted forward from my left full back position to slide in at the back post and toe poke a late winner for my team.

    That for me is the magic of the cup that nobody can ever take away. Even a useless nobody of a player like I was can have their moment in August and know that they have played their own part in the competition when they see the famous old trophy lifted aloft at Wembley in May.

    It's the greatest club knock out competition in the world and the "johnny come latelys" can keep their overblown advertising hoarding that is the Champions League .

    Give me a choice as an Arsenal fan - what would I take in May? I am no doubt in the minority, but I'd take the FA Cup. Everytime.

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  • 95. At 11:50am on 05 Jan 2009, Wilki31 wrote:

    Why do have to have this pointless debate every year? It's just the same with the GCSE results!


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  • 96. At 11:51am on 05 Jan 2009, h0merj4y wrote:

    i hate all the hype about the fa-cup. whoever owns the rights to show it in any given year (bbc, itv, sentanta etc) always spew out the same old cliches about "dreams", "upsets", "fairytales", "romance". its all crap, ask any true fan and they will say their teams priority is promotion or to stay in the division they are on (west brom, stoke etc). the only people who take the fa cup as a #1 priority are people over the age of 50 and footy-firms who like the chance of an old fashioned "meet & beat up".

    as roy keane once said when asked (probably by motty) "what does the fa-cup mean to you roy?" he answered, along the lines of "its just a cup and if you get to the final an nice day out, but we at man utd want to be winning the league and champions league".

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  • 97. At 11:52am on 05 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Right - retired No6...reveal yourself and give more details.

    You can't leave us hanging like that.

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  • 98. At 11:55am on 05 Jan 2009, cheeky_nffc wrote:

    longhornman :-) (comments 26 & 68)

    the beauty of democracy is that 'everyone is entitled to their opinion' however, when peoples opinions are utter tosh you begin to see its failings.

    tell me, do you religiously watch x-factor and strictly come dancing? after all, this is what the media tells you to do isn't it? girls aloud fan per chance?

    i don't believe for a second that in your heart of hearts you derive pleasure from watching a dour game between newcastle and wigan and that the quest to move up from 14th to 13th for the prize of a million quid more. whats the point? newcastle will only waste it anyway?

    thats all the premiership is for most teams in it, jockeying for prize money in a mind numbing rigmarole of average football, best league in the world my ****!

    who have you drawn in the 4th round? deal with hull in the replay and the opponents in round 4 and your beginning to smell wembley, you'll be interested in the cup then won't you?

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  • 99. At 11:56am on 05 Jan 2009, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    The fact you came-up with the headline, in itself, suggests that it has. The fact you refer to the anominous colleague's view says it has.

    The many responses say it has.

    #53, in trying to make a case for the FA Cup says:

    "There are those who state that the Prem and CL are priorities. It wasn?t always the case."

    Makes the case himself that the Cup has lost some of its magic.

    And finally, you yourself state:

    "Remember how the big names such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United dropped like flies to open up last year's tournament?"

    Yes, and that says it all about priority and its "magic".

    20 years ago this article would never have ocurred to anyone.

    Everything above categorically confirms that the FA Cup is not what it used to be.

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  • 100. At 12:08pm on 05 Jan 2009, Westdrop wrote:

    As an Evertonian I cannot wait for the fourth round. Yes, we may well get knocked out by our bitter rivals, but that isn't the point: the expectation is enormous and anyone who doubts cup fever truly exists should just hang out in Liverpool for that week: there will be more expectation (and a better atmosphere) at the cup game than the league match.

    A couple of points on the "romance" of the cup: 1. a massive problem is the importance of finishing in the top 4 and also the money associated with Premier league positions. It's perfectly acceptable for a manager / player to say they want to win the league than the cup, but to come 4th? For me I would genuinely rather Everton won the cup than finished 4th, even if this did mean less money and less long term stability. Unfortunately the likes of Martin O'Neill probably think otherwise.

    2. Increased TV exposure of the Premiership is another problem. Don't get me wrong: I love the fact that the Premiership is shown live every week - it supplements going to the game brilliantly. But back in the day there was so little football on telly that the FA Cup became the one place that everyone (season ticket holders or casual fans alike) could be an armchair fan, supporting a minnow for a weekend. That spectacle has been lost forever and is never coming back.

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  • 101. At 12:15pm on 05 Jan 2009, Bucksgill wrote:

    To be honest all cups are undervalued by some managers, except the Champions League.

    For example managers are perfectly happy to rest players in the Prem if they have a big champo league game in the weak.

    The FA cup though does get alot of respect from managers like O'niel yesterday against Gillingham, and if he didnt then they could be out of the cup by now. I think that managers rest players for the FA cup are doing it at their own peril. And you cant actually suggest that clubs like Gillingham and Hartlepool would normally be able to compete with Premiership teams, it what happens in the FA cup because it is soo special

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  • 102. At 12:15pm on 05 Jan 2009, sneakyprice07 wrote:

    I totally agree with *23. Last years final was a poor game not a lack of quality.
    The FA Cup is still an important trophy but as with any competition, there is sometimes other priorities for some teams.
    If Liverpool win the league with a few games to spare and have managed to get through to the Cup Final with the reserves, they will drop the first team to rest them until the final - it is common sense.
    My team Wolves are hunting for a Premiership place, that is our priority so nobody will complain when some of the reserves get a run out against Birmingham in our third round game.

    Until the latter parts of the FA Cup (If you're team is still in) ... it is all about the underdogs. As a neutral, you want Blyth to beat Blackburn, P'boro to beat WBA, Spurs to beat Man Utd, etc.

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  • 103. At 12:15pm on 05 Jan 2009, jollypadster7 wrote:

    There are a few reasons as to why the FA Cup in my opinion has lost its 'magic'. The main reason without doubt is the requirement and excitement for clubs about money. The smaller clubs just wish to draw a high profile side in order for a good day out and a money spinner. In the 70's and early 80's this was never the case. Yes the smaller clubs loved a plum tie, but only as this was an opportunity to knock a big name out. Why in a competition do you want to draw the best team in it? Does not make sense.

    The incentive of playing in the uefa cup at the end is hardly mouth watering, the inportance of the premiership and the fact that utd pulled out of this competition a few years in 2000 are also all contributory factors.

    Only way to give this cup more credibility is to offer a champions league place at the end!

    Patrick, soton

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  • 104. At 12:19pm on 05 Jan 2009, pieandapintduck wrote:

    Couple of points i can see from reading the article and other peoples thoughts:
    Just because the final doesnt have at least one of the "big 4" in it doesnt mean it will automatically become boring, Quite the opposite in my opinion, how many thrillers can you remember between those teams? They are often the most boring of all games to watch. A game between 2 teams who appreciate the chance to play at wembley and may not be winning trophies every season can be more exiting to watch to the neutral.
    Its not as if teams are fielding complete reserve teams in the FA cup, as they do in the league cup. Several teams made 2 or 3 changes but is that not the norm anyway for every game? How often do you see the strongest 11 put out for any match with the size of squad available nowadays?
    Try telling any lower league side who gets the chance to visit the giants for a cup game that the cup is dead. No matter what XI the opponents turn out its a great day to go to the stamford bridges and old traffords of this world when you are used to going to visit the macclesfield and rochdales of english football. Even when forest got beat at chelsea a couple of years ago the day out stuck in memory of having 6 thousand odd down there enjoying a good day out like in the old days
    Where else could we forget the struggles of every day league football and enjoy the thrill of hammering a club like man city? Best away day for many seasons and i imagine southend fans would say the same about their day out

    At the end of the day english football does not revolve around the big 4, regardless of what they would like and maybe them taking things slightly easier will reignite the magic of the FA cup as it means it is not the forgone conclusion that the premier league seems to be nowadays. Its a competition that teams like Villa, Newcastle etc can hope to win instead of plodding along watching the big clubs from afar

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  • 105. At 12:30pm on 05 Jan 2009, Tess Sgs wrote:

    "To Post 80...I would have no objection whatsoever to the winners of the FA Cup being handed a place in the Champions League qualifying stage at the expense of the fourth-placed Premier League team.

    In fact I would welcome it. Not sure what Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal would think, but I reckon it is a superb idea.

    Any thoughts?"

    Me too. Let's face it, at least the FA Cup winners are "champions", unlike the sides finishing second, third and fourth!

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  • 106. At 12:31pm on 05 Jan 2009, Andover_Tree wrote:

    The FA Cup has lost its magic to only four sets of fans - those that play in the Champs League every season and are only interested in games that are to their advantage. If they don't stand to gain (which they don't in the early rounds) then they're not interested - the greedy self-interest that has spoilt the game. The fans of all other clubs still love the FA Cup, even if the people that run their clubs don't take it too seriously.

    In my opinion those four clubs can clear off and play all their games in europe - the only people that would really care are the fans of teams like Everton and Man City who would lose their derby games.

    The only bit of the FA Cup that doesn't interest me any more is the latter stages - semis and final - where we see mostly the same teams playing each other yet again and usually cancelling each other out in a highly technical but ultimately boring game. Give me Pompey vs Cardiff any day. The early stages of the cup are great and always will be.

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  • 107. At 12:31pm on 05 Jan 2009, Johnnygray26 wrote:

    The FA Cup was magical in the days when the English could still pretend their football was the best in the world and that, except for once every 4 years at World Cups, no one else played the game. Then, one bunch of cloggers and hoofers beating another by dint of getting less cramp could seem like a fairy tale.

    The FA Cup is still magical for nostalgists - expats and people who remember finals in the 1960s. But the world has moved on. If you work for a club, the Champions League is far more important these days.

    These days, the FA Cup is all right - some dull matches, some quite exciting. But this endless attempt by the media to drum up artificial excitement in it tells you the real story. Every year they hype up the competition, because they're afraid that if they don't no one will care about it. They don't hype the Champions League - because people really do care about it.

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  • 108. At 12:32pm on 05 Jan 2009, Andover_Tree wrote:

    And who the hell cares what someone from Syria thinks?? This is English football. And the majority of english people love the FA Cup because we support teams other than the so-called big 4.

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  • 109. At 12:36pm on 05 Jan 2009, FifeBen wrote:

    It's that time of the year again - when we have to put up with pundits droning on about "the magic of the 'Cup"

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  • 110. At 12:41pm on 05 Jan 2009, chips_in_the_queue wrote:

    The FA Cup may have slipped down the pecking order (what is a 'pecking order'??) but it is still magic.

    It's great fun watching a Premiership team slugging it out on a mudbath of a pitch, in a tight non-league stadium with a main stand made out of corrugated iron and a car-park behind one of the goals. It tests their character and the excitement is that you know that every single lower league player is just one kick away from achieving 'legendary' status at their club.

    I have never understood though why the bigger clubs are always seen as the main culprits in the cup losing its 'magic' (i.e Manchester United for dropping out one year or the Prem teams for fielding understrength teams etc). What about those lower league clubs who up until a few years ago (until some ruling was changed i think) always seemed to switch their plum home ties to away-days at the big boys, sacrificing any chance of victory for £££s?

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  • 111. At 12:47pm on 05 Jan 2009, Simon wrote:

    Whilst I do agree that some teams have started to treat the FA Cup with less respect than it's due, for lower league clubs it's still a competition full of dreams.

    I used to go and watch Aylesbury United on a regular basis and have fond memories of FA Cup clashes.
    In 1990/91 The Ducks were the first ever non-league team to be shown live across Europe when Sky broadcast their game at home to Walsall. I was there in the freezing cold along with thousands of others.

    I remember talking my dad into driving me to Enfield in 1992 to watch Aylesbury take them on in a qualifier, and then going to the home replay in the cold and wet. Aylesbury won and drew West Brom in the first round proper - and promptly got hammered 8-0!

    Then there was the 94/95 season where the Ducks became "Mighty" and progressed further than they'd ever done. A 4-1 thrashing of Kingstonian in the 2nd round, saw them move into the 3rd round and saw the dream of a Premiership opponent come true.
    QPR at home was the draw, but the fixture was switched to Loftus Road and thousands of us took over the visitors stand. Granted, we were outclassed on the day, but the lads on the pitch were heroes (and ended up on "They Think It's All Over").

    So, yes the competition is now third choice for the likes of Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Chelsea, but for the minnows it's vital for their survival and dreams.

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  • 112. At 12:56pm on 05 Jan 2009, Johnnygray26 wrote:

    A few years ago an FA Cup draw took place on a Sunday afternoon when one of the matches in the previous round was still to be played. All hell broke loose.

    Yesterday the draw for the 4th round took place when there is still 1 3rd round match to be played. No one has said anything.

    Why this difference?

    Because a few years ago the match in question featured Man United. I'm not a Utd fan by any means, but the rabid hatred so many English fans have for them is pathetic.

    And on the same subject: no naked human eyes could have seen that the first Utd goal against Southampton was offside, it was definitely a red card, and it was almost certainly a penalty. And even if all those decisions had gone the other way Utd would still have won by a wide margin because they were in a different league to Southampton. If they had had to score seven or eight they would probably have done so. The ITV coverage of the match last night was disgracefully biased.

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  • 113. At 1:00pm on 05 Jan 2009, Simmo wrote:

    To me, the FA cup will always be magic.

    As for others saying it's devalued, they're generally either old-timers remembering cup finals from the 70's and 80's with rose-tinted specs or supporters of top 4 teams whose priorities have changed with the times.

    As a Birmingham fan i don't get to see much in the way of glory (or good football for that matter) but i'll always remember the Carling Cup final we lost against Liverpool...and the Carling Cup is meant to be the most 'de-valued' cup of all! try telling that to the thousands of bluenoses at Cardiff that day!

    For me...the top 4 can 'devalue' the cup as much as they want, but i know i'd still remember us winning it for the rest of my life should it happen. As i imagine, would supporters of 88 other teams...

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  • 114. At 1:02pm on 05 Jan 2009, Tiger wrote:

    The problem with the FA Cup isn't the Premier League it is Europe. Back when we were banned from European Competition it was a major piece of silverware. Then when we were let back in only the League Champions qualified for the European Cup so again it was highly prized. The Champions League and now the farce that is the UEFA Cup has changed all that.

    There are just too many games for the top teams to play each season and as a result when they are drawn against lower league opposition many take the opportunity to rest their stars. Especially, as quite often lower league teams end up nobbling big name players!

    The only solution I can see is to give the winner of the FA Cup the fourth Champion's League place and take it away from the 4th placed Premier League team who would instead go into the UEFA Cup.

    It will never happen but it would help reduce the financial gap if a Portsmouth, West Ham or Middlesbrough won the cup AND made it through to the group stages!

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  • 115. At 1:09pm on 05 Jan 2009, jdrawmer wrote:

    I think the public perception is that the FA cup has become devalued, simply because they see premier league teams fielding weaker sides and assume it's because they don't want to win it. Much to the contrary.

    The simple fact is that, the 3rd round of this competition especially, comes at a time when a) teams all have an agenda and a reason to keep their best players fit (whether it's avoiding relegation, staying out of relegation or reaching europe / winning the title), and b) it's a massively congested time of year for football.


    on seperate points, I do believe semi-finals shouldn't be played at Wembley - let's remember they only are to pay off some of the Wembley debt! It probably won't be the case forever.

    Also, There is no way on earth that the winner of the FA cup should be launched into the Champions League qualifiers. There is no justification for a team scraping a few results together to replace a team that has been around the top of the premier league for 38 games. The champions league by nature is the best of each nation - this would contradict it.

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  • 116. At 1:11pm on 05 Jan 2009, Joel wrote:

    Every year at about this time, this kind of article appears on the BBC Sport website. It's the same every year. I could some it up in a single sentence: "The FA Cup is still worth playing for, honest".

    Same every year.

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  • 117. At 1:26pm on 05 Jan 2009, stampoutthecheats wrote:

    Just because winning the league is more important than winning the cup, it doesn't mean that the cup has lost its magic. The two ideas are not incompatible.

    The change seems to have come from the creation of a lucrative Champions League, which has resulted in a super-rich Big Four with the wealth-gap widening every time the same four qualify. Therefore, for some clubs, getting into or staying in the top four has become the key to the long term success of the club. However, those clubs would still love to win the FA Cup, even if it's not a priority.

    For most fans and clubs, the magic of the cup still exists. For a minnow, a day out at a big club will always be remembered, and beating them will go down in folklore. This was always the case and has not changed.

    Even for fans of bigger clubs outside the top four, the FA Cup is a realistic chance to win a trophy. Portsmouth have shown what can be achieved, West Ham were a penalty kick away, managers at clubs such as Fulham have publicly said 'If they can do it, so could we.' Pompey's cup win will mean more to fans than whether they finish 9th or 16th. This was always the case and has not changed.

    And for neutrals, the FA Cup Final is still a big occasion, no matter who is in it. Some are good matches and some are not so good (and it isn't the big four clashes that turn out to be the good ones). Comment 107 is completely wrong - people do care about the FA Cup. The reason for the media hype about dreams and giantkilling isn't an attempt to drum up artificial interest, they're just stating the obvious truth. Most football fans will watch the Cup Final whoever is in it, whereas the Champions League Final does not generate the same level of interest unless there's an English team in it.

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  • 118. At 1:35pm on 05 Jan 2009, thurnsca-red wrote:

    The FA cup has been devalued and i dont think anybody can say otherwise.How can it not be when you have premiership teams and even teams from the championship putting out weakened teams.This was never the case in the cups glory years.I remember the 3rd round of the cup being the best and most exciting day of the season.Full houses at every game and when a cup upset meant something because the big club actually wanted to win the cup and fielded their strongest side. Times change however and premiership survival and a shot at getting into europe is the top priority.For the smaller clubs the FA cup still has an allure but its not the same anymore and i dont think there is any going back.

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  • 119. At 2:06pm on 05 Jan 2009, kevthered83 wrote:

    totally agree with 61. It just isnt the same watching the cup on ITV or Setanta. Il still watch it and love it (I'm a Man Utd fan, we still love the cup and want to win it) but I get so annoyed at rubbish pundits and rubbish commentary.

    The beeb had great Pundits....allthough very bad commentary, and sky was the opposite...poor pundits but good commentary.

    Both ITV and Setanta are awful at both. I know its a trivial point and doesnt really play a part in the debate of the cup "loosing its magic" but even a great game like Villa & Gillingham can be ruined by the shambles of ITV coverage. Come on Beeb.....dont waste all the money on F1....get the Cup back!!!!

    Oh and I completley disagree about ITV being as bad as channel 5 by the way....nothing on earth can be anywhere near that bad!

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  • 120. At 2:49pm on 05 Jan 2009, holtender4life2 wrote:

    In response to Phil's request about early rounds. I'm a referee who took charge of an extra preliminary round match between two teams at Step 5 of the pyramid. These teams enter the competition knowing that just to get into the first qualifying round is an achievement, but they enter anyway, the players give everything and the fans turn up to watch. The prize money involved can make or break a club's season, so there is extra pressure on everyone, including the officials, and this adds to the atmosphere. The match went to a replay, which in turn was settled in a penalty shootout. The player response at the end shows how much they value the competition.

    I also acted as an assistant referee on the preliniary qualifying round and the second qualifying round. The teams involved have ambitions to get to the first round proper and maybe draw a football league club, so again everyone involved is 'up for it'.

    These are the matches that make the FA Cup so special, no other competition allows teams at this level the opportunity to play against the Premier League teams (look at Havant & Waterlooville last season).

    Whilst the very elite may have other priorities they still field a team that most lower Premier League / Championship clubs would kill for in the 3rd / 4th eound and you don't see any weak teams competing from round 5 onwards when they know they have a chance to win the cup.

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  • 121. At 2:57pm on 05 Jan 2009, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    Hi Phil

    Could you please reread my #13 COMMENT, after reading Rafa's comments today:

    "But we must remember that we have some big games coming up in the league before the cup tie and we will be taking one game at a time."

    Your thoughts please!

    Do you still have faith in your FA Cup,?

    At least it's miles ahead of our Cup+League!

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  • 122. At 3:01pm on 05 Jan 2009, RedRedRobin wrote:

    "If you work for a club, the Champions League is far more important these days. "

    Surely the Champions League is only of any importance to people working at one of at most half a dozen teams (those involved and a couple who might be next year)? Anyone working for any other club will see the the FA cup as more important as the European Champions League has nowt to do with them.

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  • 123. At 3:17pm on 05 Jan 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    To El-Liverbird...Benitez's comments make sense to me.

    Liverpool do have big games coming up. I certainly do not sense he is devaluing the cup tie with Everton in saying that.

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  • 124. At 3:24pm on 05 Jan 2009, RetiredNo6 wrote:

    Phil - It was the only goal in Norton United's 1-0 extra prelim win over Alvechurch in (I think) August 2005.....

    On a serious note though, and I'm still involved in non league football back down here in London - the early rounds and the prize money on offer make it vital for lower league clubs.

    This season the team I coach got knocked out in the extra prelim (by a team that play within eyesight of the Wembley arch itself...). By the time we have paid our registration fees for the competition an extra prelim round defeat costs us in the region of £500. Whereas if we had scraped through a couple of rounds it gives you a couple of grand profit, which, especially in the current climate is the difference between making it to the end of the season or not for some clubs.

    None of the players I coach get paid a penny for playing - not even expenses - but you try telling them when they wake up on FA Cup day in August that the Cup has lost its magic.

    As a step 4-6 non league player those kind of days are the reason you get up every Saturday morning.

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  • 125. At 4:06pm on 05 Jan 2009, SnoopDonnyDog wrote:

    The FA Cup is still magical. It has lost some of its lustre, but so has all football. The problems of staggered kick-offs, domination of bigger clubs, weakened teams, affect all football. High ticket prices for PL games also affect attendances where fans have to stump up extra for cup ties. There are some people who would denigrate the cup because they have a vested interest in the PL or the CL. That is up to them, it is only a small number in total, most are not English and some are not even football fans at all, they're just in it for the money. Or those glory-chasing idiots who think supporting a big club impresses people. Of course, there is no romance for big clubs, because they are just there to be shot at, humiliated like Liverpool and Chelsea last season. There is plenty of romance left in the Cup; we had a record number of non-leaguers reach the third round this year. Torquay and Kettering through to Round 4, and I am sure that Aston Villa will be looking for revenge for their League Cup drubbing if Donny come through their tie with Cheltenham.

    Big clubs play weakened teams for the simple reason that they know they will probably win regardless of who is in the team. This is true in the PL occasionally. Sometimes Fergie gets it's wrong, as when Man U failed to score against Exeter and Burton. The players who played in those matches have had their careers affected; they proved they weren't good enough. The big four usually win the cup, therefore they must take it seriously, but it was good to see some other teams in the semi-finals last year, and that is not an indication of the Big Four taking the cup lightly. As for Bolton Wanderers, who cares? Their attitude is bizarre in a way, but in another way they are never going to win the FA Cup again, and they probably will not make any sort of money that will affect their bottom line.

    This is where the FA could take some action. The winners of the FA Cup will pocket £3 775 000, plus TV fees gained along the way. If the FA upped the winners prize money to £10m or upwards, that would make PL clubs sit up. For winning six matches, that's not a bad return.

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  • 126. At 4:35pm on 05 Jan 2009, stroma88 wrote:

    Everyone complains about the big 4 winning everything. So now the ""LESSER"" clubs have a great chance of winning the FA cup and still most people complain.

    Portsmouth winning the cup was a shot in the arm last season, especially after beating ManU. If clubs don`t take it seriously then they will get what they deserve, and I`m a ManU fan.

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  • 127. At 4:59pm on 05 Jan 2009, Poolietrev wrote:

    Phil, your cynic colleague may point to Stoke's under strength team but Hartlepool fans would point to:
    a) James Brown, arguably our best player and top scorer before injury put him out for the season, missing.
    b) Willie Boland, solid holding midfield player, out injured.
    c) Anthony Sweeney, one of our best players, substituted injured after only 15 minutes.
    d) Michael Mackay, substituted injured after about half an hour.

    And it wasn't a case of grabbing a lead and hanging on against an onslaught: Hartlepool had more possession (56%) and more shots on target and were worthy winners.
    Great blog though: for neutrals, last season was great: we're fed up of the endless procession of Man Utd, , Chelsea, Liverpool & Arsenal winning the cup year after year. Oh, for a return to my formative years when the first 13 cup finals I remember (1966-78) produced 13 different winners!

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  • 128. At 5:30pm on 05 Jan 2009, MGUK82 wrote:

    As a Man United fan who also keeps half an eye on a couple of lower League teams, I want my team to win or at least get a good result in every competitive game going be it a run of the mill Premiership tie, a Club World Cup match, a Champions League tie or a domestic Cup fixture.

    Though we've never been knocked out of the FA Cup by lower League opposition in the Fergie era, I still remember Exeter giving us one hell of a match back in '05!

    Admittedly the competition, particularly the early rounds, are never going to be of much interest to international fans ("yawn, wake me up in May" to quote a New Yorker).

    However even when my team goes out early, I still try to catch some action from each round.

    In terms of getting people to take it more seriously, I don't like the idea of giving a CL space to the winners(in fact I'd drop the Cup winners getting an automatic European spot at all!) but I do like given bonus League points to the winners/finalists of both domestic Cups(more points for the FA Cup than the League Cup though).

    That way, potentially, the domestic Cups could have a bearing on the Premiership title race, or battle for European spots, or relegation battle. And therefore all teams would have to take them seriously.

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  • 129. At 5:38pm on 05 Jan 2009, U11846789 wrote:

    Top 3 into the Champions League.

    Winner of the FA Cup gets the 4th spot.

    It's not rocket science is it.

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  • 130. At 6:11pm on 05 Jan 2009, vancouveral wrote:

    I find it amusing when some contributers complain about mismatched teams playing boring games in the FA Cup. Some of the most boring and cynical games I have ever watched have been European Championship games between teams playing a game that means nothing to them. The fact that supporters have travelled thousands of miles and paid handsomely for travel and tickets is beyond their comprehension. They do not understand they are in the entertainment business and will lose support if they pull this sort of effort too many times. We expats have wonderful memories of our trips to Wembley to support our heroes and I still get goose bumps whenever the FA Cup starts and my team advances. It may be nostalgia but it was still great times to follow the "Cup".

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  • 131. At 6:27pm on 05 Jan 2009, Alliterative hornet wrote:

    "It is still a competition that provides lifelong memories if your teams wins it."
    It may provide a lifelong memory if that's your only memory of your team winning something, but will it last in the memory as long as a Champions League or Premiership win?

    "The FA Cup is alive and kicking. And some big names are being kicked. Manchester City boss Mark Hughes is unlikely to be wallowing in the romance of the cup after the pressure increased on him to provide meaningful return on a vast investment following a humiliating defeat at home to Nottingham Forest."
    Sorry, but a team 2 points away from the Premiership relegation places that hasn't won anything noteworthy in at least a generation is not a big name, regardless of how rich its owners might be.

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  • 132. At 6:33pm on 05 Jan 2009, thehandofblog wrote:

    The FA Cup is still of huge interest, but only to those aged around 35 and over. That is because the FA cup final used to be just about the only domestic club game screened live on television, and that imbued the competition with a romance that has long turned stale: the whole season seemed to lead to that long saturday morning of cup final television (screened on both BBC and ITV). But how can you expect the 21st century child to get excited about Hartlepool v Stoke when they can now watch Real Madrid v Barcelona ? For us to now lament the competition's apparent "devaluation" is pure old-git selfishness.

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  • 133. At 8:39pm on 05 Jan 2009, GerrardTheKing wrote:

    Harry Hill is less funny by far than an unlanced boil. At least the boil has potential.

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  • 134. At 10:01pm on 05 Jan 2009, SydneyToon wrote:

    love the FA Cup, and it's all about the smaller teams pitting their wits against the big clubs. I don't mind when some teams decide to field weakened sides, because then it opens up the competition. But the "big four" won it every year from 1996 until 2007, so how can we say they didn't take it seriously?

    Here in Australia, it is a very popular concept, with the David vs Goliath formula.

    And the Final is always shown live on Aussie TV every year.

    Toon fan, Sydney, AUS.

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  • 135. At 11:55pm on 05 Jan 2009, Alonso_must_stay wrote:


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  • 136. At 06:46am on 06 Jan 2009, Jay wrote:

    EVERY supporter can tell you if or when their team won the FA cup but ask when or if there team came third or fourth in the PL then who cares? In 5, 6 10 or 25 years time people don't care if there team were runners up in the league, Ipswich, runners up in '82, so what, we won the uefa cup in '81 and the FA cup in '78. If you check out the club shop they don't have replica shirts of when we finished 5th in the PL, because no one would by them.
    If Arsenal won the FA cup this season then without a doubt it would be a successful season for them. If Liverpool's title bid crumbles and they are only left with the FA cup would it be a disaster? I think not.

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  • 137. At 09:51am on 06 Jan 2009, SaorDoireBhoy wrote:

    In my honest opinion I would blame man utds decision to pull out of the fa cup years ago and play in the world championships a factor in the decline of the fa cup. I found myself angry at the time at the total disrespect shown by alex ferguson for a cup which many English people regard as their heritage and something to be proud of when comparing the English game to the likes of Italy, Spain etc. But would you see the likes of real Madrid pulling out of the copa del rey? I think not! As mentioned this is all down to the fact that (as mentioned) football is all about money and is a business! The achievement of reaching an fa cup semi final now doesn't have the same merits as finishing in the top six in the epl moneywise and to be honest it's ridiculous! I'm a Celtic supporter but grew up watching thE magic of the fa cup and loved the all day build up the BBC used to have for the final as well as newspaper coverage in the week leading up. Last year was abysmal to say the least, the lack of big teams in the final four made me feel like i was watching coverage for the league two play offs and back pages of newspapers were dedicated to the ronaldo to madrid story.
    High up board directors of the big clubs obviously now are more concerned about the income generated rather than the prestige available from achievement. Just a thought that if this so called European league ever takes place, what will happen the likes of the fa cup? I can't imagine the likes of utd being to worried about going to play Blackpool away in the cup early January, if they're involved in a more glamarous tie with real Madrid in the bernabeu a week later....

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  • 138. At 12:15pm on 06 Jan 2009, Alliterative hornet wrote:

    Re. msg 137

    Didn't Man Utd compete in the World Club Championship instead of the FA Cup at the request of the FA, in the mistaken belief that it would help secure England's bid to host the World Cup?
    It could be argued that Man Utd could have competed in both, but the blame for the incident doesn't lie with the club.

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  • 139. At 12:21pm on 06 Jan 2009, MGUK82 wrote:

    Real Madrid wouldn't have had to pull out of the Copa del Rey. All the continental leagues have a winter break. Even if they did have to, Real would probably have done so without much fuss domestically.

    Last I checked the continentals have never taken their domestic cups all that seriously.

    Admittedly that first Club World Cup turned out to be a farce and I do regret now that United took part, particularly as it meant not defending the FA Cup that year.

    However we are going to have to accept that fact that England are the exception to the rule on a lot of football issues.

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  • 140. At 1:50pm on 06 Jan 2009, wedontknowfootball wrote:

    fa cup still has its magic, fa cup final in may. even if your team is not in the final, chances are you're going to watch it.

    sure, after man utd took part in the world club cup instead of the fa cup talks about the cup not being important arised. it is still a cup, who doesn't want a cup and be called champions.

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  • 141. At 5:06pm on 06 Jan 2009, BrizzleBluebird_CCFCformenomatterwhat wrote:

    Just ask Steven Gerrard, John Terry or William Gallas if they would like to have been in Sol Campbells boots when he lifted the FA Cup last year.

    I am sure they would happily have taken that rather than winning absolutely nothing!!!!

    The Premier League is just a marketing exercise. Champions League, don't make me laugh.... How can it be a CHAMPIONS league when teams as low as 4th play in it. What are they Champions of?????

    Plastic armchair fans can have their 2nd, 3rd, 4th places, given the chance of winning the FA Cup (going to the final last year with Cardiff was an experience I'll never forget, despite the result) or 1 season in the premier league..... I'd take the cup every time.

    C'mon the Bluebirds, Arsenal are our next victims on January 25th!!

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  • 142. At 5:17pm on 06 Jan 2009, pkkirkwood wrote:

    Have to say I'm obsessed with the FA Cup and support the competition more than any team. I've been to six ties so far. See my blog for details:

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  • 143. At 11:14am on 08 Jan 2009, plin68 wrote:

    At last count 142 comments and they say the FA cup has lost it's magic! We all care so much that it never will.

    Post 15 tells you all you need to know. A lot of the fans who support the big four will never understand the emotional investment required to support a smaller club and the lifelong pay off that the FA Cup can bring. Add to that the joy of Barnsley beating Chelsea (nobody, but nobody saw that coming) and similar shocks - these are the oxygen that keeps you going when your club is perennially on life support.

    As one of those supporters, I couldn't give a toss about the shite that is the Champions League. How many rounds/matches, and the third placed team gets another million games in the UEFA cup for failing? How can that be right? If you want devalued the CL is your trophy. Stacked, seeded and bloated.

    I still fill up when I see Don O'Riordan's thunderbolt rocket into the back of the net at White Hart Lane in the 91 QF - not for the goal itself, but for the 4,000 Notts fans going mental behind it. The same thing happens when I see Dave Beasant lifting the cup for Wimbledon in 1988, or Kilcline in 1987 or the boy Anderton scoring against Liverpool in the semi and thousands of Pompey fans going spare. Chesterfield's last minute equaliser to make it 3-3 in perhaps the best semi final ever. Unforgettable.There are hundreds more.

    These images are irreplaceable to every football lover because they represent the impossible dream made real - if only for a second.

    If you're a big club you can keep your money and your stadiums and your millions of fans and you can win the FA Cup as many times as you like. You'll never take away it's magic, because one day, for one match that you can't ever take away, one of us underdogs is going to beat you. And we'll all have those memories forever.

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