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So Kevin Fylan has poured scorn on this season’s FA Cup, saying romance was “the last word” he would choose to describe what’s happening in the competition. Well Kev, as we prepare for this weekend’s semi-finals, let me say I couldn’t disagree more.
I’ll admit I’m something of a footballing Luddite, one of those old-fashioned fans who laments the fact that the days are gone when clubs like Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Everton and Aston Villa won league titles. The days when supporters had a genuine affinity with players. The days when Sunderland, Southampton and West Ham could win the FA Cup.
Although it’s clearly not their top priority, I simply don’t agree with the assertion that the FA Cup doesn’t matter to the Big Four. One look at the Chelsea line-up that went down at Barnsley indicates how much they were up for the Cup. Sure, they rested Frank Lampard and Petr Cech, but it was by no means wholesale squad rotation and you only had to see the look on Avram Grant’s face as he trudged down the tunnel at Oakwell to see he was far from ambivalent about his team’s cup exit.
It was a similar story with Manchester United as they were beaten by Portsmouth. Sir Alex Ferguson’s post-match rant was not the work of a man happy to be knocked out of the FA Cup.