It really winds me up when I hear managers of Premier League clubs bemoaning replays in the FA Cup.
It grinds my gears even more when bosses of sides in the Championship do it too (yes, Steve Bruce – I’m pointing my finger firmly at you here).
They are a part of the magic of what is considered to be the greatest cup competition in the world. They add that extra spice to each round, especially when teams from the lower divisions are involved.
But a lot of clubs are not too happy at them. Surprise, surprise, it is often the top flight teams trying to throw their weight around to lessen the fixture congestion in order to compete more strongly in the Champions League.
Some of the ideas flying around lately include getting ride of replays, putting the quarter-finals in midweek instead of on a Saturday or Sunday and making the Capital One Cup semi-finals only one legged.
Why? What is it going to achieve? This is surely being done only to bow down to the “big boys” of English club football.
Personally, I feel any change to the tournament would make a mockery of the competition and to its detriment.
Look at Exeter City in the third round of the competition this season.
They were drawn with one of the giants of the game, Liverpool, at St James’ Park. Now obviously the ultimate goal was to beat the Reds in the originally tie, but it finished 2-2 and as such they got the chance to walk out at Anfield in a replay.
What an occasion that was for the club and their fans, and an unbelievable achievement at that, to match professionals being paid tens of thousands a week more than them.
Let’s look closer to home. Arguably the greatest FA Cup comeback of all time was when John Aldridge’s Rovers came from 3-0 down to beat Premier League side Southampton 4-3 at Prenton Park.
That game was of course a replay because the initial tie at The Dell ended 0-0, again much to Tranmere’s credit.
Replays are a reward for the smaller sides. They are hard earned and much sought after. Indeed, they can be a huge money spinner for financially struggling clubs and leave chairmen rubbing their hands with glee.
Getting rid of a replay, perhaps one game per season, won’t make too much difference to how a Manchester City or Arsenal perform in Europe.
My suggestion would be this; instead of taking away a lower league team’s dream by scrapping the replays, how about the “big boys” respect the FA Cup.
Maybe, just maybe, if managers selected their full strength team in the initial tie, there would be no need for a replay in the first place.
That way, they give themselves the best possible chance of going through and, who knows, there might even be some much coveted silverware at the end of it for them?