In the wake of James Beeson’s controversial article which claimed that the FA Cup has lost its relevance, News Editor Owen Keating responds in favour of the magic of the cup.
The third round draw
The fifteen minutes where two ex-football personalities help create the best footballing weekend of the year remain as exciting as ever. Waiting for your team’s ball to be pulled out, guaranteeing them a glamour tie away at one of the nation’s footballing giants (or, more likely, a dour home tie against Rochdale) remains one of the few consistent pleasures of the lower league fan’s occasionally tragic lot. When you’re being fed a diet of 0-0 with Burnley and scrappy wins over Scunthorpe, the promise of a trip to White Hart Lane, Anfield, or even St. James’ Park can be a godsend.
Increased away allocations
One of the Cup’s main appeals for those who love a good away day is the rule which states that clubs are able to apply for up to 15% of a ground’s capacity for their away allocation. Leed’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2010 was watched by 9,000 Leeds supporters, and my own favourite FA Cup memory, Watford’s visit to Manchester City in early 2013 (at the peak of the Zolacoaster, miss you Gianfranco) was attended by 6,000 Hornets who sang from start to finish. In an era when away fans are increasingly policed, with their freedoms of travel and sustenance increasingly limited, the chance for a boosted allocation in a winner takes all game, often with reduced prices, occasionally at a new ground, can be an unforgettable experience for fans.
Perhaps an obvious option, but David giving Goliath a bloody nose is almost synonymous with this trophy, the old lady of English football. Some may bemoan the weakened teams that the top (or nearly top) sides (Tottenham) tend to put out, but try telling the fans of any Football League club that they wouldn’t relish the chance to test themselves against one of the giants of the game. There’s a depressing tendency within the media to paint English football as only relevant in its upper echelons. This simply isn’t true. Smaller, local teams play just as vital a role in their local communities as their bigger, shinier, counterparts. Cup results can revitalise a town, engage a community, write nondescript footballers into local folklore. We remember Ronnie Radford, we remember Wrexham beating Arsenal in 1991, we remember Wilfried Bony hilariously scoring at Old Trafford four weeks ago. The FA Cup is where the footballing status quo can be shocked.
The mutual despair in all-PL cup ties
For all the romance of lower league sides earning their big day out, or bumper clashes between local rivals, the FA Cup can also throw up some hilariously bleak games. In this year’s third round, Norwich and Fulham played out two appalling games. As soon as the sides were level in the tie itself, thoughts immediately turned to how a replay, with all its numbing fixture congestion and inane BT Sport coverage, could be avoided. Hilariously for the neutral, this didn’t happen, and we were treated to the spectacular site of two teams trying really hard not to win. A refreshing change of pace compared to the schmaltzy, hyperreal Super Sunday culture football appears to have adopted in a bid to infect our lives.
The fact that Ben Watson can score the winner – it’s a knockout
Finally, this. You can say what you like about BT Sport, Adrian Chiles, Budweiser, weakened teams, replays, all of it. Every complaint about the FA Cup could, in some boring, “big teams know best” way, probably be argued as true. However, indisputably, Wigan’s triumph last year proved that this tournament remains one of the last vestiges of football’s status as the people’s game. Man City’s petro-dollars, hordes of fans, and scarf-wearing sulky Italian manager were beaten by proud Wigan, a team from a rugby league town, led by Ben Watson, a nomadic midfielder who came back from a broken leg to realise his childhood dream of scoring at Wembley. You can’t beat that.bookmark me