The Magic of the FA Cup

I hate clichés but then I’m all too ready to roll one out when it isn’t needed. I consciously tried to avoid talking about ‘the magic of the cup’ on the radio last night because I feel to attribute all of the magic to the competition and not the competitors is to do a disservice to some of those taking part.

For those that heard I shared the Friday Football show studio last night not only with host Rob Makepeace but also Lincoln United player Danny Brooks and coach Stuart Reddington. Before we started talking my first thought was of how Reddington could have been the best player we never had. He moved from Lincoln United to Chelsea back in 1999 and later played for Mansfield and Burton. However he was always destined to be a white, and not a red and white.

Listening to the guys chat about Lincoln United made me realise that for the cup to get all the glory as ‘magic’ is fundamentally wrong. The cup is the vehicle by which these teams compete, but the magic remains in the importance we put in the competition, and in those smaller clubs winning important football matches. Would it be as magic if Spennymoor were away at Nuneaton today? Of course not. However the cup did not put Nuneaton out in the last round, Lincoln United did.

It was slightly humbling to think I was there discussing Lincoln City who had only just entered the competition, but Stamford Town fans were describing it as ‘bigger than when they got to Wembley’. The stage of a competition we enter at is the pinnacle of a decade of football for another team, and that is where the magic of the cup lies. However again it is not the cup itself that is too thank for that, it is the competitors.

I did a blog a week or so ago about the potential of playing a slightly weakened side in the competition. I wouldn’t agree if we did, but you could imagine with the financial rewards league football brings, a cup run might be seen as a distraction. I think Danny Cowley was quite firm on the fact he took this as seriously as any other game, and of course that is important for the competitions integrity and for those fans paying their £10 today.

I do think in order to continue to carry it’s standing in the game, the oldest club competition in the world has to adapt slightly. There was discussing with Danny about the abolition of replays to aid fixture congestion, and I can see the pros and cons of such a move. Sure a replay in the 4th qualifying round against Guiseley might not be attractive, but taking Liverpool back to Anfield in the third round certainly would be.

Most of the rule changes come from the top down, so semi-final replays are scrapped because of big clubs fixture congestion, but the FA don’t seem to think too much about Lincoln United who won’t want to spend their hard earned money on a bus journey to Spennymoor should they get a draw. There’s no magic in travelling across the country to play another non-league team on a cold Tuesday in November, but if I’d asked Stuart Reddington if he would fancy Sheff Utd at home and then back to Bramall Lane for a replay I guarantee he would have said yes.

We’re expecting a lower crowd today than usual because this starts a run of three home games in ten days or so. With Christmas now just a couple of months away families will already be looking at budgets, and three lots of entry fee in such a short space of time isn’t easy to manage. Personally I think it will hit the Boreham Wood attendance harder than this one, especially as it’s £10 on the gate today.

To make a cup game more attractive I think we should be allowed to use the multi-ball system at all stages of the competition. Danny mentioned that the ball was in play for just twenty two minutes in one half against Braintree, so for arguments sake lets say fifty minutes in total. Fifty minutes of football is almost prompting people to reach for smart phones or head off to the bar early. Football is a game that should be played at a frenetic pace, and certainly with our high tempo pressing style the more the ball is in play the more likely we are to score a goal.

I’m reliably informed that it is allowed at later stages of the competition and that is just plain wrong. Once again they are thinking of the top flight spectator and the top flight teams. If I were not a Lincoln fan what could possibly tempt me to an FA Cup 4th qualifying round match? Action, plain and simple. No swinging fan wants to watch twenty minutes of goalkeepers retrieving the ball from the stands, or players milling around the dugout getting a drink.

We pay for a product and the more of that product that is on show, the better value for money we get. If the cup really is to remain magic for all those that enter then I think the FA need to look at ensuring it remains a draw for the paying spectator as well as those latter stage armchair viewers.

Good luck to Stamford and Lincoln United today. It would be incredibly for the city to have two teams in the 4th qualifying round, and as long as we play our part there’s no reasons the Whites can’t join us in the hat on Monday evening.

13 DAYS LEFT – You know what to do.

As you know by now I’ve made it through to the finals of the Football Blogging Awards 2016 thanks to your votes, and I need now need your votes again. There are a couple of ways you can register your vote. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / Non League blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!