Does the FA Cup only matter to the fans? Is there any real magic left in a competition that is slave to the TV companies? Do we need it to validate our season? Vass Koni has a look at these questions.
If you are one of those fans that still buys in to the oft trundled line regarding the “magic of the cup” from TV companies desperate to sell you their wares, then there’s an underlying message that you need to understand. Aside from Tottenham Hotspur trying to perpetuate that magic by somehow dragging teams back to Wembley for a kick about, the magic of the cup died away years ago.
There’s no Tinkerbell fairy dust to sprinkle over a competition that has been diluted by Football’s governing body in the search of more cash to pay for their lavish and over budgeted national stadium. The FA Cup magic died the day it was decided to have both semi-finals played at Wembley. Or when they started looking for the biggest sponsor they could. Or when they allowed the timing of the FA Cup draw to be dictated by TV Companies.
“Getting to Wembley” ceased to be the Holy Grail that players aspired to. Even more so when Wembley started to host “play-off finals” which is a celebration of coming third in the respective divisions of the Football League. It seems that anyone can play at Wembley these days, and if you’re a current Premier League player then you are going to play there at least once this season and possibly up to four times more when Chelsea move there.
Since Wimbledon’s win in 1988 the cup has been won just five times outside of Liverpool, Woolwich, Chelsea and Manchester United
But back to the FA Cup. Winning the cup matters to us the fans. Of course it does. Particularly if you are of a certain age and can remember how it used to be before the days of oil dollars and Russian Roubles. Since Wimbledon’s win in 1988 the cup has been won just five times outside of Liverpool, Woolwich, Chelsea and Manchester United. And one of those five wins was Manchester City who are now primed to win it on a semi regular basis. The other four wins go to Spurs in 1991, Everton in 1995, Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan in 2011. That’s five out of the last thirty almost. There is no magic of the FA Cup any more. It is has become as predictable as summer following Spring.
So what about Spurs in all of this. We NEED to win a trophy apparently. Or such is the current narrative from a media that serves up its opinions parrot fashion through the sharing of a limited number of brain cells. Original thought and informed opinion rarely make an outing in football punditry aside from two or three respectable people. You see winning a trophy is the latest stick with which to beat Spurs with.
The previous stick was making Champions League qualification or our players would move on. Then it was paying our players or they would move on. And there will be a new stick that follows once we do win a trophy or two. Which we will.
But the need for Spurs to win a trophy is infiltrating the consciousness not only of rival fans but of our own fan base too. The pressure has become frenetic. Don’t get me wrong, I want us to win the FA Cup badly. Six semi-final defeats since the last win has been a painful period in our history. But that history does not belong to Mauricio Pochettino or the current squad of players. Hopefully they are in the process of creating their own history and one which we will all be proud of. And whilst we fans have been waiting for an eternity it seems to win a trophy, it isn’t the same for this current team.
Our desperation as fans for a trophy win has seen some nonsense written about Pochettino not taking the domestic cup tournaments seriously. Whereas in every game of every round he has clearly fielded a team good enough to win the game. And his job as Manager is to do precisely that. When it goes well we agree with it and demand that our big hitters are rested. When it doesn’t then we are bemoaning the fact that those same big guns weren’t selected.
Six semi-final defeats since the last win has been a painful period in our history. But that history does not belong to Mauricio Pochettino or the current squad of players. Hopefully they are in the process of creating their own history
It is hardly like Harry Redknapp who threw in a bunch of kids into the Europa League because he couldn’t be bothered with it. You see back then it was OK for Harry to prioritise Champions League qualification instead because that was what we all craved. Now we have it, it seems our craving has shifted.
And back to Pochettino taking the domestic cups seriously, much has been made about his “priorities”. I defy anyone to point to a head coach or manager that isn’t prioritising something. Unless you are a Manchester City that can realistically enter all competitions (having that squad) with an expectation that you can win it that is. And we are not in that place right now.
Pochettino has clearly said on occasion that the FA Cup is an important competition and that he would like to win it with Spurs. The players have said likewise including Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. But the argument that comes back is that “well Pochettino has said it isn’t a priority so that means the players aren’t going to try as hard”. Clearly if you believe that then you have never played the game. This isn’t like sitting in your office and Dave from accounts gives you a job to do and then tells you it’s not urgent so you can take your time over it!
We at Spurs, want to be taken seriously. So seriously in fact that we will do what we need to do to make the world sit up and take notice. And we will do that with the type of performances we have shown this season in Madrid, Turin and Dortmund. That is why Pochettino has said that the Champions League and Premier League title are priorities. Because he wants to elevate this club to a new plane and I for one am comfortable with that. We have to change our mindset as fans and raise our own bar. And yes this is a result of the modern game as horrid as that may sound. You only have to look at that team from Woolwich that have won trophies with illogical regularity in recent times and those fans still aren’t happy. They still hate their manager and live in a quagmire of bile and despondency. In fact they only use those wins as a shield to deflect the reality of their own state.
Enough of them.
It is not to say of course that I think Pochettino doesn’t care for the FA Cup or the League Cup. Of course he does. But this is the mentality of modern day managers and particularly managers from abroad where the domestic cups are seen as somewhat of a distraction. As long as Pochettino is fielding teams strong enough to beat the opponent then I am fine with that. He did that against Rochdale and against Newport. Bear in mind too that team selection is not always influenced by the competition. But also by the opponent. I am sure that if we were playing Chelsea or Manchester United in the next round, that you would see a different team selection.
So don’t doubt that we as a club are not taking domestic cups seriously. We are taking them as seriously as we need to and hopefully it won’t be long before Hugo Lloris is holding that trophy (and others) aloft over his head. But remember too that as painful a thought as it is – the magic of the cup died years ago. Enjoy our progress as a team and look forward to what is to come. Don’t get sucked in to the immediacy of needing success because the media are telling you that this is how it ought to be. You can see what is happening at our club. Embrace it