Thursday 22 March 2018

Not a lot of magic left in the FA Cup

Weird Wide World of Sport

Manchester City's David Silva is tracked by Angelo Ogbonna of West Ham during their FA Cup tie
Manchester City's David Silva is tracked by Angelo Ogbonna of West Ham during their FA Cup tie

Dave Devereux

After the excesses of the festive season, the flab is threatening to spill over the waistband like custard coming to boil bursting over the lip of a saucepan, and I'm beginning to resemble a 1980s hooker (the rugby type, not the more sordid variety that is).

Apologies to anyone wolfing down their breakfast for painting this unpalatable picture, but thankfully I'm not sporting the extra from Pretty Woman look, complete with fishnet tights and leather mini skirt.

No need to worry though, it's that time of year when the new year, new you nonsense is spouted about with greater frequency than breaking wind after a feed of Brussel sprouts, so I'll be right as rain quicker than Mike Dean can reach for a red card.

I'm all for a bit of self-improvement, but with a measured approach, as a drastic new regime with more changes than a top Premier League side against perceived minnows in the early rounds of the FA Cup in the fledgling throes of January is almost always doomed to failure before it even begins.

Speaking of the grand old English knockout competition, the FA Cup has become like a resolution that we know won't be fully followed through with.

Each year those with vested interests will bleat on about giant-killings, fairytales and make impossible to keep promises about bringing us the romance of the cup, when in fact it's about as romantic as going for a pie and chips washed down with a wholesome pint of ale with Big Sam Allardyce.

With every passing season you hear less talk on the street and barstools about the once highly sought after prize, unless of course Man United have had a barren campaign and the FA Cup is their last shot at glory.

The truth is for most Premier League clubs the competition is nothing more than an inconvenience that they only take seriously if their second string or youths team manages to make it through to the business end.

That said, the likes of Guardiola and Mourinho may have a heightened interest this term as it could be their only realistic chance of silverware as they try to convince expectant chairmen that they're value for the exorbitant money they command.

The third round action kicked off on the BBC on Friday evening when Manchester City travelled to take on West Ham, and it's not too often you get to see two top flight teams going head to head on the terrestrial channel, although the hapless Hammers put up less of a fight than some unglamorous non-league minnows would as they were completely torn to shreds by City.

Fans, in the main, have lost interest in what was once a glorious competition, with attendances generally low and in many cases those that stayed away didn't miss a whole lot.

The really big clubs don't see it as a priority unless they happen to get to the quarter-finals of the competition, while those outside the top six that stand to benefit most from having a chance of winning a trophy are far more concerned with where they finish in the highly-lucrative Premier League pecking order.

Playing the semi-finals at Wembley has also taken a great deal of the gloss off the showpiece tie itself, and a return to neutral grounds would be a small step in the right direction for a failing competition.

Of course, the FA Cup does still hold some sort of attraction for lower league and non-league clubs, if only for a rare bit of glamour and a decent pay day, and with Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic winning it in recent times, as well as Stoke City, Hull City and Crystal Palace going close, it does offer a degree of hope for the also-rans.

But that's about the height of the allure of the competition in its current guise, so is there any real magic left in the FA Cup?

In the words of the late, great magician Paul Daniels, 'not a lot'.

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