Has the FA Cup lost its sparkle? Sunday Supplement panel ask if the tournament's magic is still there
Last Updated: 05/01/20 2:09pm
Was Dean Smith right in saying the FA Cup has lost its sparkle? The Sunday Supplement panel discuss whether the tournament is in decline.
Aston Villa boss Smith took aim at the tournament, one of world football's most historic cup competitions, after his side's 2-1 defeat to Fulham in the third round on Saturday, having made nine changes from their New Year's Day win at Burnley.
Villa face Leicester on Wednesday in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals, their fifth match in 14 days, and Smith said the cup had "not taken priority" because of the fixture congestion his side has faced over the Christmas period.
But is he right that the magic of the cup is dying out? The Telegraph's chief football correspondent Jason Burt told the Sunday Supplement how clubs and fans alike had been distracted by burnout from the number of fixtures around the turn of the year, damaging the significance of a once-revered weekend in the footballing calendar.
"Because there have been so many games, not just in the Premier League but Football League too, no one has had time to think about it.
"I think there's been one too many rounds of games, if we took one of those away we'd have more time to think about it, but we've gone straight from them into the third round. That's reflected in the teams, too. They can't put out their strongest teams, and not just in the Premier League.
"You look down the leagues at the teams who are going for promotion, too. There's a simple solution in my mind - take away the two-legged EFL Cup semi-finals, you create one more round of midweek fixtures, and give more time to the FA Cup. Suddenly people will be talking about the FA Cup more."
But the magic of the cup was alive for fans of Rochdale and Tranmere, who secured memorable draws with Newcastle and Watford respectively, said Dominic King, north west football correspondent for the Daily Mail, who also noted 8,000 Port Vale fans were in attendance at the Etihad for their 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
"It's wrong to think it's universal negativity," he said. "Driving down last night, listening to some of the fans ringing into the radio talk shows, there were Tranmere fans who've made long trips to get to Watford, Port Vale fans at Manchester City. We shouldn't have this absolute downer on it, that it's miserable.
"I hate that Dean Smith has said it's not on his list of priorities. I can understand the pressures of wanting to stay in the Premier League, but if you gave an Aston Villa fan the option of finishing 19th and winning the FA Cup, what would they pick? I'd expect them to take it."
With 23 teams involved so far this weekend changing more than half of their team from their previous game, the addition of more prize money could prove a greater incentive for managers to take the competition seriously, added Daily Mirror football writer Darren Lewis.
"If you had a greater financial incentive, teams outside of the Premier League would take more of an interest," he said.
"Even those teams are making changes, Arsenal play Leeds tomorrow night, we don't know what sort of team Leeds will put out. There's a lot of teams in League One and League Two pushing for promotion, who want to save themselves for their respective divisions."