Bacon's Bites: We're all being duped – especially the players. It's about time someone stood up for the FA Cup
PA Archive/PA Images
In this week’s column, Mike Bacon takes a look at the FA Cup and the demise of the replay... The demise of the FA Cup?
I may have only been ‘little’, but I remember it well.
Thursday, March 27, 1975... An FA Cup memory that has stayed with me forever.
It was Ipswich Town v Leeds United, FA Cup sixth round, FOURTH replay.
Yes, I did say FOURTH replay.
Those of a certain age will remember it well.
It was that big a game, even though I was at Primary School and usually in bed by 9pm, I was allowed to sit up and listen to the radio as Clive Woods curled in a late winner from outside the box as Ipswich marched into the semi-finals of the world’s greatest domestic Cup competition.
While sadly Town lost in that semi-final to West Ham, my memories of that mammoth FA Cup tie between the Elland Road club and Town will never be forgotten.
The first match at Portman Road saw Town’s still biggest-ever attendance of 38,010 – not likely to be beaten any time soon.
That game ended 0-0, as did the replay at Leeds three days later... 1-1.
Back in 1975 a third replay was played on a neutral pitch. And so both teams headed to Filbert Street, Leicester. That third replay ended 0-0, and incredibly just three days later, Woods and Town won it 3-2.
For a young impressionable young Town fan like me, listening to that game that night was pure gold. I don’t think I slept much that night...
...I say all this as this season’s FA Cup enters the fifth round later this month and, for the first time ever, replays have been scrapped at this last 16 stage.
Yep, folks, should Newport defeat Middlesbrough in their fourth round replay, they host Manchester City at their Rodney Parade ground later this month. What a money spinner, what a day.
However, should they (or Middlesbrough) draw with Pep’s boys there will not be another well deserved pay day back at The Emirates, a second chance of a big cup upset. No, the first game will be decided after extra-time and then penalties!
What a pile of crap.
The qualification of four Premier League teams – Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham for this season’s Champions League knockout stages, along with Arsenal and Chelsea’s progress in the Europa League, has persuaded the Professional Game Board (whoever they are), to bring the change forward, in order to reduce fixture congestion.
That’s fixture congestion for the aforementioned clubs, not the rest of us pleb clubs and fans who make up the bulk of professional football.
The sanitisation of football in this country that means we now just look after the top clubs, stinks.
Premier League clubs with squads the size of Roman armies can’t cope with an FA Cup replay or two makes my blood boil.
I understand you can’t have two, three, four replays any more, but just one replay... Come on.
The top sides already disrespect the FA Cup enough, putting out ‘weaker’ teams. Why should we all bow down to their wishes?
Hasn’t anyone got the balls to stand up and say, ‘No, the FA Cup is more important to football in this country than the Champions League’... clearly not.
If Man United or Spurs don’t want replays then they can put out U18 teams, or 11 of their 147 squad members on huge wages who play about six times a season, lose graciously in the third round, and let us all then get on with enjoying the competition.
Of course you know what’s coming next.
No replays at all. No replays from the third round, maybe even the first round. Perhaps even the extra preliminary round.
A potentially big financial hit to many lower league clubs.
Who remembers non-league Burton drawing with Man Utd 0-0 at home and earning a lucrative replay? Rooney and Ronaldo both came on that afternoon to try and win the game for United, but battling Burton held on for a famous replay. The magic of the FA Cup.
But what if that tie had gone to penalties and United won?
Those couple of weeks back in 2006 that included that big-money replay has helped transform Burton FC forever.
And what about Giggs running around Villa Park with his shirt aloft and hairy chest showing, after his stunning semi-final winning goal against Arsenal in 1999. That was a replay. There was Champions League football then.
The list of memories is endless... But it’s all about cold hard cash these days. Emotions and memories are dirty words in today’s money-obsessed footballing gravy train.
Teams would rather qualify for the Champions League last 16 than win the FA Cup. Only in years to come with their bare trophy cabinets and lack of medals will players realise how they have been duped. Rich, with no memories.
No wonder so many of today’s football pundits get so frustrated at the game. As for the fans....
With quarter-final replays scrapped in 2016-17 and no semi-final replay since Giggs and Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal in 1999, this latest step means the last FA Cup fifth-round replay was held at Wembley – when Tottenham beat Rochdale 6-1 in February last year – a lucrative night for the Dale at least.
What is it about our country that we seemingly hate being proud of what we have got. Our history and tradition.
The FA Cup is known around the world and watched around the world.
When’s the last time you sat down and watched a Copa del Rey game from Spain? Didn’t think so.
We should be proud of the FA Cup’s uniqueness.... Hereford v Newcastle, Burton v Man U and only this year, Tranmere v Spurs... We have a competition on a different planet to the rest of football.
So why are some trying to water it down all the time?
Give the FA Cup another 30 years and it will be no more imporant than the EFL Cup is today – just as some would seemingly want it.