Monday 11 December 2017

The magic evaporated from the cup years ago

Dave Devereux

Chelsea's Diego Costa during their 5-1 FA Cup win against Manchester City on Sunday
Chelsea's Diego Costa during their 5-1 FA Cup win against Manchester City on Sunday

With the idea of scrapping FA Cup replays being mooted, some are crying foul, saying the magic of the competition would be lost.

However, the sad reality of the situation is that the magic evaporated years ago. It's pretty much par for the course these days for top flight teams to field weakened sides as they either chase silverware at the top of the Premier League or just try to cling on to the udders of the cash cow, by staying in the division.

It's doubtful that there were too many Manchester City supporters crying into their thobes after Sunday's demolition job by Chelsea.

Of course, you can understand why Manuel Pellegrini prioritised Wednesday's Champions League tie in Kiev ahead of the FA Cup, given the difference in prestige and money that's up for grabs, but it doesn't make it any less annoying.

With some of the sky high shirt numbers on display in the team City could easily have been mistaken for an American Football outfit - the last time I saw digits in the 80s running on to a field was when a Junior 'C' team was short a few players for a league outing.

Sky Blues supporters only a few years back would have given their right arms to win a trophy - they wouldn't have even turned their noses up at the bloody Johnstone's Paint Trophy, but now it's an altogether different tale as money has taken hold.

I recently heard a Man City supporter on one of those annoying football phone-in shows, saying that he's fed up with it all and it's not the club he fell in love with.

He now chooses to go and watch some non-league football to reignite that passion when football was about the love of the game and a sense of belonging, not some sterile, multi-national franchise.

Although Chelsea may have been playing against a far from full strength Manchester City team, the difference between them now and under Jose Mourinho is astounding - it's like night and day.

It just goes to show the might of player power in the modern game. If the players want you out, your time is certainly up.

You need look no further than Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa who are playing like world stars at the moment, when only a matter of a couple of months back you wouldn't give them a run out in your local Sunday league side.

We should count ourselves lucky that we have League of Ireland football on our doorsteps.

Many will scoff at the standard of the league as they watch West Brom take on Sunderland from a high stool, but you'll get the sense of camaraderie that only real, local football can bring.

Much has been made of the ridiculously-inflated ticket prices across the water of late - with the franchises not seeming to care about the fabric of the club, the fans. Unless they kick up a proper stink that is, with walk-outs and the like - then they can grudgingly accede to the supporters' requests and pretend the fans were their number one priority all along.

The big clubs in England will continue to dip their toes in the murky waters and see just how far they can push the beleaguered fans. After all, it is all about big business, first and foremost.

The weekend's action was also sullied by some brainless coin-throwing gobshites.

Chris Brunt felt the wrath of one of his own 'supporters' when he received a gash under his left eye.

Some senseless Chelsea fans were sadly up to the same trick on Sunday, as coins were pelted at City players as they celebrated David Faupala's equaliser. You'd really have to wonder about the mentality of these people.

I'm fully aware there's plenty that find it difficult to separate their real lives from the gladiatorial goings-on on a pitch, having witnessed two pensioners going toe to toe in the stand in Nowlan Park a few years back as bemused parents with startled kids looked on.

On another occasion at a game in Tullamore I was in ear-shot of shockingly vitriolic language and abuse that you wouldn't hear out of a docker's mouth.

To make matters worse it wasn't from some rebellious teenager or an irate 20- or 30-something - no, it was a woman in her 70s.

Of course, a sense of place is one of the most important aspects of sport, but ultimately it is entertainment and a means of escaping the mundane.

Obviously every game you watch isn't going to be end-to-end and brimful of excitement, but you have to take the lows with the highs and just enjoy the atmosphere.

You're bound to get some duds along the way that have you questioning why you spent your time and money on such a load of tripe, but if you went to the cinema and the film was more Far and Away than Apocalypse Now you wouldn't try to kick seven shades of shit out of everyone in the foyer.

The fight to retain the magic of the FA Cup may be well and truly lost, but the battle to rid sport of imbecilic supporters is one that certainly can be won.

Wexford People

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