Tottenham needs to take FA Cup more seriously

spurscup

The third round of the FA Cup is fast approaching, and the usual argument of “forget it, play the second XI” is appearing on many internet threads. So this begs the question: Should Tottenham play weakened sides in the FA Cup to reduce fixture congestion and increase their chances of finishing higher in the Premier League?

The answer to this question, in my opinion, is a resounding no. The FA Cup is an integral part of the history and tradition of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and it would be a disgrace to disrespect the competition.

Ask any Tottenham fan what their most memorable moments supporting Spurs are and the three most likely answers are likely:

  1. Paul Gascoigne’s free kick,
  2. “It’s still Ricky Villa!!!” and
  3. (for the older generation) winning the double in 1961.

What do those moments have in common? They all are related to the FA Cup.

Tottenham and the FA Cup go hand in hand. Spurs were the first team to win the FA Cup in the 20th century, the last non-league side to lift the trophy, the first team to complete the league and cup double in the 20th century and have won the competition eight times (third most, behind Arsenal and Manchester United).

Most Spurs fans know by heart the chorus of “Ossie’s Dream,” the song recorded for the 1981 FA Cup final with its famous line of “in da cup for Tottingham” recorded by none other than star Argentine Osvaldo Ardiles. In fact, “Spurs are on their way to Wembley” is heard from the Park Lane during every cup tie at White Hart Lane (even in the Europa League, where the final destination is not Wembley). Other cup final songs include “Come on You Spurs” (1982), “Hot Shot Tottenham” (1987) and “When the Year Ends in One” (1991), all included in every devoted Tottenham fan’s repertoire.

However, Tottenham fans of the younger generations (including myself) have never experienced such incredible heights. Bar two League Cup triumphs in 1999 and 2008, Tottenham have not won a major trophy since the 1991 FA Cup – the last time the team reached an FA Cup final. Although Spurs have been to six semifinals in that time (with three of them played at Wembley), they have lost all six. No fan under the age of 25 can say they have personally experienced Cup Final day with Tottenham Hotspur.

SEE MORE: Tottenham are showing that a title challenge is possible.

Tottenham are not a big enough club with a track record of success that allows them to pick and choose which competitions to target. Especially with such a young squad, a culture of winning needs to be engrained, and the FA Cup is the perfect way to get that ball rolling. Manchester City won the FA Cup the year before winning the Premier League in 2012, which started to blood a culture of winning into their mish mash of overpaid stars. Very few (if any) players in the current Tottenham squad have won a trophy at first team level, so why should we give up the chance to win one? Especially one that only requires winning six matches?

Tottenham fans ridicule Arsenal about their seemingly annual “fourth place trophy”,” but isn’t it hypocritical to give up the chance of at silverware to chase precisely that? Finishing fourth is not a trophy. It grants access to the seemingly elusive UEFA Champions League, but fourth is not the be all and end all of supporting Spurs.

Six years ago, the top four teams in the Premier League were leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. Finishing fourth was necessary to break that stranglehold held by Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, with a vastly increased domestic television revenue, the rise to prominence of smaller clubs like Leicester City and Crystal Palace and the relative demise of the financial heavyweights, the need to finish in the top four is not as great as it once was.

Tottenham have the youngest side in the Premier League and will only improve from here on out. Thirty years from now, most supporters would not harbor such strong memories of a fourth place finish, but many would remember an FA Cup triumph, just like the current generation remembers the club’s previous successes.

Many fans also believe that cup runs lead to a dip in league form. I do not believe this is true. A perfect example is Tottenham last season. The time between defeating Newcastle 4-0 in the League Cup quarterfinal and the tournament’s final coincided with the best run of form Spurs had all season. That run included memorable victories over Chelsea and Arsenal as well as a dramatic last gasp equalizer against our friends from East London. There was a definitive buzz around White Hart Lane brought about by the impending trip to Wembley, one that energized everyone associated with the club. After the final defeat to Chelsea, there was a sense of a letdown, lethargy and dejection throughout the last 12 league fixtures, despite Spurs being within a realistic shout of the top four (only three points back before a 3-0 loss at Old Trafford on March 15).

SEE MORE: Klopp and Pochettino are the trend-setters the Premier League needs.

The FA Cup also provides this season’s easiest route to silverware. Although the Europa League knockout stage requires fewer rounds (five instead of six), the ties are two-legged and require playing two matches a week throughout the second half of the season. There are also 12 or 15 strong clubs still in the Europa League. Many will be going all out to win it.

The FA Cup, meanwhile, only requires one match per week (excluding replays) and features lesser opponents. If Spurs get past Leicester, they face a greater than 20 percent chance of drawing a non-Premier League club in Round 4, and still decent chances of drawing lower league clubs after that (Arsenal only faced two Premier League teams before the final last year).

The Europa League is Europe’s secondary cup competition, while the FA Cup is England’s premier domestic cup. For that reason alone, I think the FA Cup would be more prestigious.

Tottenham fans are foolish to suggest the club not take the FA Cup seriously. It is a competition that is deeply entrenched with the tradition and history the club, and it provides another opportunity to break a trophy drought that has gone on too long.

Tottenham fans, let me know your thoughts about the FA Cup and expectations for the rest of this season in the comments below.

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3 Comments

  1. Niven Frey January 6, 2016
  2. Pawlito January 6, 2016
  3. Nelson January 6, 2016

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