The emotive subject of bigger clubs devaluing the FA Cup has reared its head recently, with both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola weighing in with their opinions on FA Cup replays.
I’ve decided to take a step back on this for a while; it would be easy for a fan-led media outlet to immediately shoot down the two managers for the disrespect they are apparently showing the competition. Pep seemed to suggest we should scrap FA Cup replays and Klopp has already said Liverpool will field a youth team for their game against Shrewsbury and he won’t even be there himself.
I understand why fans of smaller clubs have thrown their hands in the air at this. Firstly, I think Klopp is both justified and out of order at the same time. Yes, the replay is scheduled in the middle of a break and I fully understand why he won’t send his first team players. I think he is wrong in not attending himself though; the break is aimed at player’s fitness, not him sunning himself in the middle of winter. I feel that managers have a responsibility to the lower leagues to a degree and it really wouldn’t hurt Klopp to turn up, even if it is the kids he’s putting out. If he’d made this statement when his team were not scheduled to be on a break, I’d be more miffed, but fair is fair; we can’t give the top clubs a break and then snatch it away from them because of a cup replay.
That doesn’t mean we should scrap replays. I’ve seen Pep’s chat and to be fair to him, he suggests cutting down on the number of games, not directly scrapping FA Cup replays. I can see a need for that; hell I complained plenty back in August when we had fixtures every couple of days. Back then it wasn’t fair on us and right now it’s not fair on them. Funny, the media only really bother when it is a big manager, but at least the fixture congestion is coming into the public view.
As for Karl Robinson asking for them to be scrapped; what is he on? He’s like a turkey calling for Christmas. I’ve never liked that man, he lacks class and for a League One manager to look to get replays scrapped is madness. He’s complaining about having a squad of 20 players and having to play nine fixtures in February, but we played nine fixtures from August 3rd to September 3rd and you didn’t see us calling for replays to be scrapped.
The reason I can’t get behind replays being scrapped is obvious; it’s all part of the magic of the cup. The FA Cup is far more than Manchester City and Liverpool; it’s far more than us or Oxford as well. It’s about clubs like Boston getting their replay against Rochdale, or Bromley hosting Bristol Rovers after their First Round draw. They may not sound like big games to Jurgen Klopp, but they are potential lifesavers for some clubs. Scrapping replays would have prevented York Street hosting one last FA Cup tie, with the possibility of a win and a tie against Newcastle in front of them.
Obviously, for us it would have robbed us of the chance to play Ipswich back at the Bank in 2017. It’s a move which would seriously devalue the FA Cup, to a point where it would be ‘just another’ competition. There is still magic around the FA Cup, even if in the later rounds some big clubs treat it with utter contempt. I appreciate that in Spain or Germany, the domestic cup is not as cherished as over here. That’s maybe why two high-profile foreign managers are wanting to make changes to it. As for Karl Robinson, I can only imagine it’s because he is adversely affected by it that he’s having a moan. I guess his chairman doesn’t feel the same, nor would any club struggling for a few bob.
By the way, Robinson claims to have a squad of 20 first team players, but according to their website, his first team squad is 27 players strong…..
What is the solution? I’m not denying that there are too many fixtures for some clubs, the Liverpools of this world are expected to play a lot in Europe and could do without a domestic competition. However, taking replays out of the FA Cup does cause financial hardship to clubs up and down the country every year. As outlined on my recent ‘Morning Dog Walk‘ show (can I call it a show?) I think I have a solution and, to make it clearer to envisage, I’m going to outline it on the next page.