Sport Soccer

Thursday 21 September 2017

Replays are no good to anyone -- penalties the only way to save FA Cup

Nottingham Forest's fans celebrate after their 5-0 victory over West Ham United after the FA Cup Third Round match at the City Ground, Nottingham. Photo: PA.
Nottingham Forest's fans celebrate after their 5-0 victory over West Ham United after the FA Cup Third Round match at the City Ground, Nottingham. Photo: PA.

Alan Hansen

The FA Cup is a shadow of the competition it once was and I seriously fear for its future unless it has a big revamp. It was once something magical, and the semi-final was the most highly pressurised game I ever played in my life.

The prize you were playing for, with a trip to Wembley, was so unbelievable and the build-up seemed to go on forever. Before I won the FA Cup in 1986 there was something missing and it felt like I had not achieved anything. When I finally won it with Liverpool it then felt like I had got the lot.

When I was a player, the FA Cup third round was one of the biggest days in the calendar but this weekend it felt like the magic was not there any more. The romance was nowhere to be seen and you could count the number of big shocks on the fingers of one hand.

The old feeling, that magic and excitement of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s is not there any more.

Now it's all about prioritising. The money is all in the Premier League and getting into the Champions League so of course the FA Cup is going to take a hit.

With all that money being thrown around I cannot see how it is going to get any better until they scrap replays. For the likes of Manchester City, another game is the last thing Manuel Pellegrini needed and he is now facing a real fixture pile-up.


Why not finish the games on the day with a penalty shoot-out? If they finished games like that I think they could keep the FA Cup where it is.

Replays are no good to anyone, and it is not as if attendances this weekend were that great anyway.

The decline of the FA Cup was clearly reflected in the number of punters who turned up to watch the games. Watching the Premier League is so expensive nowadays that it is very difficult for families to watch other football.

There's no doubt the competition is not what it was, and while Paul Lambert may have created some controversy with his comments that the cup was a hindrance, it has been going on for a long time.

If you get to the semi-final then of course you want to win the competition, but all the games before that are probably seen as a distraction from the main event.

Now we have not just got the big teams fielding weakened teams, we have even got teams in mid-table or near the bottom fielding people we have never heard of before.

West Ham were the prime example yesterday, with Sam Allardyce playing a load of youngsters against Nottingham Forest because he has a League Cup semi-final in the next few days. He paid the price with an embarrassing result.

Manchester United are also out of the FA Cup and David Moyes was focusing on the League Cup semi-final against Sunderland. He clearly sees that as a better chance and, if he wins that trophy, this season at least he can say he's got one.

If Moyes can win the League Cup and finish in the top four that would represent salvation for the season. The flipside is that it's one chance of a trophy gone, and should United lose to Sunderland he will look back and regret it.

Playing weakened teams never used to happen in the FA Cup when I was playing. It was all about fielding your strongest team and attempting to go all the way. Even if Liverpool were the title holders and drew a non-league club at Anfield there is no way we would have sent out a weakened team.

Staying in the Premier League is the absolute priority now -- if you were to ask most chairmen if they would take an FA Cup win over survival, I think we know the answer. There's possibly only Wigan's Dave Whelan who would prefer the FA Cup, and that is because he has got a history with the competition.

The TV companies still pay big money to show the games and it is such good business now that armchair viewers can sit there all afternoon on Saturday and Sunday and watch game after game.

Is that a good thing? Probably not. The number of games televised on one day damages the competition and we have now got the situation where we are having the draw for the next round before the Sunday afternoon games are even played. What's wrong with having the draw after all the games have been completed?

The FA Cup is something I hold close to my heart but it is going to need some work to rescue it. The history and tradition of this competition will never go away but it is struggling at the moment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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