The FA Cup romance is rekindled after amazing weekend results
The romance of the FA Cup was rekindled on a weekend when soccer’s goliaths had never looked so vulnerable but the string of top-flight second XIs who fell or stumbled said much about where the competition now ranks.
Staid and predictable and in danger of becoming little more than a sideshow, the FA Cup was given the equivalent of life-saving surgery as Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa were dumped out by lower league clubs.
Those who fell, however, made wholesale changes, choosing to rest top players and blood inexperienced youngsters with important midweek Premier League games uppermost in the minds of under-pressure managers.
QPR boss Harry Redknapp described the 4-2 defeat by third-tier Milton Keynes Dons as “disgusting” but he retained only two players from the side that drew with West Ham United the weekend before.
Norwich’s elimination was less excusable. The Canaries enjoy the relative comfort of a seven-point cushion over the bottom three but still made six changes against Luton Town before becoming the first top-flight side in 24 years to lose to a minor league club.
The reality of the modern English game is the Premier League and Champions League are financial behemoths and clubs are less interested in silverware than keeping their noses in the money trough.
If top-flight survival is threatened or there is even an outside chance of reaching the promised land of a top-four place and Champions League qualification, then the FA Cup takes a back seat.