By Matthew Howman
This is not the Romeo and Juliet story it once was. The FA cup. The cup where David can go toe-to-toe with Goliath and come out arms aloft, the beautiful game in overdrive.
Fans from all corners of the country have fantastic recollections and memories of their team in the cup and it will bring a reminiscent smile upon the face of any football fan, young or old when the topic arises.
“We were 3-1 down, we won a penalty and never looked back, 4-3 and the winner came with the final kick of the game”
“2-0 down at half-time, they were in the division above, we came out all guns blazing and won 4-2, amazing”.
The FA cup is there for everyone, it is the chance for Yeovil fans to make their mark at Anfield, the chance for rivalries to be reborn. So why are clubs not taking it as seriously anymore? Is it an extra fixture that could be avoided, or is there simply not enough weight in the value of the cup to the players?
It’s the fifth round of the cup, Southampton are away to Sunderland. The fans are travelling the length of the country for what was dubbed as “the most important match of their season”. They lie in eighth place, arguably the peak of where they will end up this season and all-but safe from falling into relegation danger, and yet they failed to beat a plucky Sunderland side who are already in the final of the League cup and battling for their lives in the premier league.
Assistant manager Jesus Perez spoke after the match,
“Obviously, it was a tough game against Hull [on Tuesday], we played away as well, we came home late and some of our players were not fully recovered and we decided the best players to play today.
“For us, every single player is important and useful for us and it doesn’t matter who is on the pitch.
“There was a lack of freshness, that’s obvious, but nothing more.”
A lack of freshness. Six changes and the players that came in weren’t fresh? These players know what the cup means to the fans, and although first-team sharpness may be an issue they are all professional players that are conditioned on their fitness that also play developmental matches if they are not involved in first-team action.
That is not an excuse to have put in such a lacklustre performance. It may be said that they could have taken a replay had Rickie Lambert not have missed a sitter yet they got what they deserved.
The magic of the cup needs to be rediscovered. Many would say that foreign players do not understand what the cup means to the supporters. The foreign players don’t know about the tradition of the cup and its importance. Others would say the new generation of players don’t perceive the cup in the same light.
Whatever it may be it is nothing less than a disappointment. A disappointment for the young supporters who may never get to watch cup games played with such ferocity and passion as we once knew.