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Monday, January 07, 2008

Why no FA Cup previews Gooner ?

Why no English FA Cup previews Gooner ? - that was the question that I received nearly a hundred times this weekend when I didn't offer any personal cup picks on the main site.

I think that you've now seen the answer as a barrage of "upset" results hit most tipsters picks during the 3rd round.

In Europe, the domestic Cup is treated quite lightly, offering no more than a midweek diversion from the serious bread n butter of league football.

In England, it IS a little bit different, due to the age and history of the FA Cup competition as modern football's longest surviving trophy dating all the way back to 1872.

But the allure of the cup has definately changed in the last twenty years, with prize money, congested fixture lists, and a surfeit of football on TV all playing their part in lessening the status of the FA Cup.

Back when I was a lad, the FA Cup was likely to be the ONLY live game that you would see on TV during the season. So reaching the final and worldwide exposure was a big thing.

Now there are literally 20-30 games on the box each week - all the rounds are covered - and frankly the FA Cup final is just one more telvised game and certainly not the major aim for the biggest clubs.

So in the fans eyes - the Cup is no longer the be-all and end-all and this is shown in the dwindling attendances in cup games right around the country.

Whether it's prize money or just TV appearance money for playing in the English Premier League and/or Champions League - there is little doubt that the FA Cup is a distant 3rd priority for teams with European commitments.

Arsenal's football budget is based around the TV money payments from the Premier League and Champions League, and the couple of million quid on offer for the FA Cup probably is now less than the gate receipts from a single league game at the Emirates Stadium with 60,000 attending.

Winning the silverware is nice - but it's only a consolation prize - "at least we won the cup".

The Cup Final is probably not even the most valuable domestic match either - as I've heard it said that the playoff match for the teams that finished 3rd - 6th in the lower English Championship is considered to be worth GBP 30m (in Premier League TV money).

IF the Football Association REALLY want the FA Cup to regain it's allure - then there are a lot of POUNDS, EUROS or DOLLARS to be found in order to make the Cup a major target.

Club motivation has to be examined when making a punt - and typically the only clubs that are fully motivated are those that are not challenging for a league title AND are not likely to be troubled by relegation either.

OK - I'm less sure about this arguement - because I remember teasm in the 1980's playing 70+ games in a season with a squad of just 14 or 15 players.

However, the game has changed, and perhaps because its faster, or perhaps because players are more pampered, it seems that squad rotation and fielding weaker sides in the cup is de-rigeur.

This makes picking results much harder as you have to guess at the mangers selection policy, especially amoung the big clubs who may be playing every four days at various stages of the cup.

You also have to factor in that teams will often settle for a replay with a few minutes left - instead of pressing on for the winner - meaning that the number of draws does tend to go up - and few people like to bet on the draws.


So Why no English FA Cup previews Gooner ? simply because there are too many moderating influences and artificial events going on to make picking two line-ups easy - let alone forecasting a result.

So this wekeend I left it to guys who were pretty close to the action of several clubs - and even then they had plenty of problems in foreseeing what eventually happened.

We will see how the fourth round draw pans out - as their may be a tie or two worth a punt.