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Cup's glory days are well in the past


Chelsea manager Frank Lampard (left) with young star Mason Mount

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard (left) with young star Mason Mount

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard (left) with young star Mason Mount

The FA Cup final will take place on Saturday and I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness that this once great occasion has lost so much of its sparkle.

When I look back at my career, a small selection of days stand out as special and while many of them came playing for Ireland under Big Jack, the moments when I got my hands on a medal and added my name to the list of winners were priceless.

Winning the League Cup with Oxford in 1986 was a fantastic achievement, getting my First Division title medal with Liverpool in the 1987/88 season and winning the FA Cup a year later are all stand-out moments and yet the priorities have shifted in recent years.

When you see Manchester United dancing around the pitch after they secured a top four finish in the Premier League, you realise that FA Cup glory is no longer at the top of the agenda for players or fans.

I would hope that if a survey of players and fans was conducted, a majority would say they would rather win a medal than finish fourth and qualifying for the Champions League, but I'm not sure any more.


The prestige of being in Europe's biggest competition has become such a massive part of the modern game that the FA Cup and the League Cup are well down the pecking order for the top teams and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has never shown too much interest in the FA Cup since arriving in England and while some of that has been down to circumstances out of his control and fixture congestion, he opted to play a youth team in this season's competition, even though his first-team stars could have played.

Chelsea didn't face the real Liverpool in the fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge and on Saturday, Frank Lampard and his team could feel the benefit of that lucky break if they beat Arsenal in this season's FA Cup final.

The sight of an empty Wembley will ensure this bizarre top flight domestic season in England ends in something of a strange environment and while I would love to think we could find a way to make the FA Cup more relevant, it's hard to come up with a plan to give it back its gloss.

In the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the FA Cup was a bigger prize than the old First Division title as that was the game that brought the nation to a standstill, with the day itself a 10-hour television event that was so exciting to be a part of.

With so much football on TV these days, the FA Cup final has become just another match on the agenda, yet I think we could be in for a cracking encounter as Arsenal and Chelsea lock horns at Wembley.

These two teams finished a long way off the pace set by Liverpool at the top of the table and for Arsenal, the reality that they ended up an embarrassing 43 points behind the champions highlights how far they have to go to get anywhere near the top again.

That said, I like what I have seen from Mikel Arteta since he took over as Arsenal boss and even though it seems he doesn't have too much money to spend in this summer's transfer market, he is a young manager with real potential.

Clearly, he has learned a lot working under the guidance of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and the way he has his team hunting in packs for the ball when they are not in possession is very like Man City when they were at their best.

On the negative side, they have massive problems defensively and any team that relies on David Luiz at the heart of their defensive line isin for trouble and that's why I believe Chelsea will come out on top in a game where both teams will score.

Frank Lampard has done a decent job in his first season as Chelsea boss and getting them into the Champions League was an achievement given their transfer embargo last summer.

He is still a little wet behind the ears and his touchline spat with Jurgen Klopp at Anfield last week confirmed as much, as he didn't need to get involved in that.

Mind you, if I was on the touchline, I'd have probably been screaming as well as it can get heated down there!

To his credit, Lampard has changed the culture of the club by giving some young, homegrown players a chance to shine, but that was down to necessity rather than choice as they couldn't sign players last year.

Now Roman Abramovich's chequebook is out again and they are signing some top players in Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, with Kai Havertz likely to arrive before the start of next season.

Like Arsenal, they need to rebuild their defence to be competitive with Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table, but there is a lot to like about this Chelsea team, especially Christian Pulisic, who has caught my eye time and again this season.

With defensive mistakes certain to flow on both sides, this should be a high-scoring Cup final and if I had to pick a winner, I'd just favour Chelsea to outscore Arsenal and give Lampard his first trophy as a manager.