I love the FA Cup.
For me it will always be the greatest cup competition on earth.
I grew up in the 90s (was born mid-80s) in a working class family in North-East London. We did not have the money for Sky TV. That meant the only football I got to watch was the FA Cup.
It was actually the FA Cup that made me fall in love with The Arsenal.
Watching the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Tottenham in 1991 as a 6-year-old, I had decided to support whoever loses (I grew up in a family with little interest in football). 6-year-old me’s favourite colour was also red, so I was hoping Arsenal would lose so that I could support them.
I do not remember the game but Arsenal lost, and from that moment I became an Arsenal fan.
My next real memory of Arsenal was the 1993 FA Cup Final.
Back in those days the FA Cup Final was an all day event. The BBC would start off in the teams hotel for breakfast, live broadcast the coaches going into the stadium players on the pitch and so on.
I remember being in my kit, going out to the garden to kick a balloon pretending I played for Arsenal – no player in particular. At this point in my life the only connection I had with Arsenal was the kits I was bought. From memory I had never watched another game on TV since 1991, and did not know the players.
It finished 1-1. I do not remember watching the replay. It was past my bedtime.
The 1994 European Cup Winners Cup followed and that was it, I was hooked. But it all came from the FA Cup.
My love affair with the competition leads me to being extremely offended with the way managers, the media and the FA themselves treat the competition.
For as long as I can remember, people have questioned “the magic of the cup” and talked about its decline. But clubs, TV companies and the authorities are killing it themselves.
Tonight we play Bournemouth away. We will get some obnoxious pundit talking about the demise of the cup, whilst ignoring the fact that playing a game on a Monday night is part of the problem.
In recent years we have seen more games then ever be played on a Friday night, Saturday lunch time and Saturday afternoon.
3rd round FA Cup day used to be a day out. Sit in the pub with a huge accumulator watching the 3o’clock kick offs come in. With them now spread out over 4 days, it just is not the same.
The FA have removed the European place for the runners-up (if the winners had already qualified through the league). No longer will you get Millwall having a favourable run and going on a European tour.
A place in Europe was a well deserved prize for a lesser club if they had made it through to the final only to face and lose to one of the big boys.
The change happened from 2016, which denied Crystal Palace fans a European tour. Likewise Watford last year; thrashed in the final, no European football to help drown their sorrows.
For clubs like Palace and Watford, a cup run was their best chance of European football. Hull City, Stoke City, Cardiff City & Southampton have all qualified for Europe in recent years having finished runners-up in the cup. By removing the chance of getting into Europe as losing finalists, the FA enforce the view that survival in the Premier League is more important.
We then have the clubs themselves.
I have no issues with managers but out changed XIs in the cup. They have a squad of 25 players. It is there job to shuffle the pack and use them how they see fit. And with the top 6 especially, they have a wage bill of hundreds of millions and a squad filled with internationals.
What I can not stand is the (usual foreign) managers moaning about the cup.
We have Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola recently moaning about replays. About how England should scrap either the League Cup or FA Cup.
I am sorry, but these are foreign men who simply do not get English football. They want to come here, be paid millions, but then change the things that the fans love. If they do not want replays, if they do not want 2 domestic cups, maybe stick to managing in Spain?
Klopp yesterday talked about how in the replay against Shrewsbury Town he will be putting out the U23 team and Neil Critchley, the U23 manager will be taking charge.
Liverpool have a squad that is paid £264million. It contains over 20 players capped by their country.
Klopp put out a team that contained experience centre backs Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren; behind them was Adrian in goal. Fabinho, Takumi Minamino & Divock Origi were also in the team.
An experienced team, they were 2-0 up against Shrewsbury Town – 16th in League One. They drew 2-2. Mo Salah, Firminho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all bought on to try and grab a winner.
Instead of deflecting and moaning about replays, Klopp should be calling out the performance of his own players who let a 2-0 lead slip.
Shrewsbury Town’s wage bill is just £3.5million. That is less than what most Liverpool players earn. The youngsters who started for the Scousers will also be on more money than any Shrewsbury Town player.
Liverpool might have already played 37 games this season; but Shrewsbury Town have played 36.
Whichever way you look at it, Klopp has no excuses over his side drawing against Shrewsbury. And his post-game comments shows that he just does not get the magic of the cup. It is no wonder that Liverpool have never made it past the 5th round under Klopp with his attitude.
And it is an awful attitude.
My problem with the likes of Klopp and Guardiola is these are not men who going to spend decades in the English game. Both will soon move on to their new paymasters. But whilst they are here, they are determined to wreck the greatest cup competition on earth. It just is not right.
If you can not respect the country you are living in, its customs, then maybe you should find another country.
Scrapping replays, letting the U23 manager take change, it is damaging in the long term.
The FA Cup is why I fell in love with football. It builds greater bonds for the children of Shrewsbury, Oxford and Exeter to their local club. Taking them out of the grasp of those super clubs that are hundreds of miles away.
A replay against Liverpool at Anfield will earn Shrewsbury Town in the region of £1million. It will mean a new training ground, or a new stand. It will transform the club. Transform the town.
But Klopp is sitting there in his ivory tower earning himself more money than Shrewsbury’s annual turnover, commenting about English football and English competitions. It shows he just does not understand.
Liverpool fans should call out Klopp. Make it clear that they do not agree with his stance. Likewise if Guardiola, Mikel Arteta or Jose Mourinho make disparaging comments, fans of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea should make it clear that they disagree.
The FA Cup is the fans competition. From non-league to Premier League. If you do not understand its importance in English football, then you do not understand English football.
Yesterday we were informed that Yogis Warrior had sadly passed away. Stuart wrote A Cultured Left Foot. He was one of the best bloggers out there and inspired many others to “pick up a pen”. He wrote for years because he loved Arsenal. RIP, thoughts with his family.