I admit it, I fell a little bit out of love with the FA Cup this past weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, if Everton were to win the trophy this season I’d be celebrating until the 2015 final, but that romantic notion that is attributed to this wonderful tournament wasn’t nearly as prominent this year for me; in truth, it’s probably been dwindling for a while now.
If there is any real stardust left in the early rounds of the FA Cup, it is perhaps the equivalent of the magic done by an aging magician showcasing the same, tired tricks at a scarcely attended show.
Typically, the third round weekend is one of the best days on the calendar for English football supporters. It’s supposed to be about lesser sides pitting their skills against more illustrious opponents and fans from all clubs sampling different stadiums and experiences at various ends of the football spectrum. There’s a collective dream of a Wembley final amongst all, no matter how unfounded or unlikely.
It’s a competition that many like to think as preserving the soul of the English game; keeping ‘proper football’ going whilst the financial imbalance within the Football League continues to disillusion supporters and fans alike.
But did anyone really enjoy this weekend of FA Cup football just gone?
Managers moaned and rotated. Players ambled about. Supporters just didn’t turn up. It feels as though the essence of the FA Cup has shifted from “footballing leveler” to “unnecessary, unwanted burden”.
Heading to the Everton game this weekend, there certainly wasn’t that same buzz about the ground. There never really is when you’re at home against a team from a lower division (QPR), and I suppose that’s natural.
For season ticket holders, games in the early stage of either domestic cup mean there is a possibility you won’t necessarily be sitting near the people that surround you during a Premier League match day. The cup games don’t come part and parcel of a season ticket (Manchester United aside, I believe) but you can choose to sign up to an “auto-cup scheme” that secures your usual seat for those games too.
Some regulars attend the League Cup and FA Cup games, but some don’t. Subsequently you get sporadic match goers who turn up and they can sometimes be a little grating. They shout out some peculiar things, they’re up and down out of their seats and shuffling along the row during the game to get food or go the toilet.