The F.A. Cup is undoubtedly a competition which is steeped in history and it is that history which means it is perceived as the greatest domestic knockout tournament in the world. Scores of giant killings and dramatic finals have taken place over the years, and those memories are woven into the fabric of English football.
But with the F.A. Cup now seemingly being marginalised by such entities as the Premier League and Champions League respectively, it does raise the question as to just where this once great spectacle now fits in the ever-changing landscape of the game.
It seems that over the past couple of decades this cup competition has suffered a slow erosion, one that arguably started when Manchester United pulled out of the 2000 edition in order to play in the FIFA Club World Championship instead.
Now it is viewed as something of a burden, especially in the 3rd and 4th rounds as teams play weakened line ups, now the primary focus is all about mounting a title challenge or simply making sure you stay in the top flight.
And with the amount of money that comes from either qualification for the Champions League or avoiding demotion to the Championship, then you can begin to understand just why it is used as the ideal opportunity to rest and rotate key personnel.
A look at this season’s 5th round only highlights this further, of the sixteen teams left in the hat just seven of those are representing the Premier League. More clubs from the EFL are still on the road to Wembley then their top division counterparts.
However, of those seven it is still the usual suspects that are involved and the F.A. Cup betting would certainly re-inforce this point. Manchester City are looking to compete on every front possible this season and currently find themselves as 5/4 outright favourites with Bet365.
And it is the 5th Round which is arguably the most significant this season, the reason being that replays at this stage have also been removed. Therefore, the possibility of a potential money-spinning return fixture for the likes of Newport County, who themselves face City this weekend, is no longer an option.
Now there has to be a winner on the day, with extra-time and penalties ready to be deployed if necessary. On the one hand, you could argue that a one and done encounter adds to the drama, but on the other, it just shows how much the F.A. Cup has had to give up on in order to stay relevant.
There’s no doubting that when the big name Premier League clubs get to the business end of proceedings then this particular competition is still one that they very much want to win, it’s just a case of getting to Wembley which seems to be the issue.
We now live in a day and age where the modern football calendar is far too congested, a simple solution would be for the Premier League to shrink to 18 teams and, therefore, allow a bit of breathing space for all involved.
However, that would be akin to turkey’s voting for Christmas and not something that we can expect anytime soon. Instead, it is a once great cup competition that now plays second fiddle and if its demise continues then soon we’ll only be left with those wonderful memories.