World of Sport: FA Cup magic has disappeared

Former Posh keeper Joe Lewis. Photo: Peterborough Telegraph
Former Posh keeper Joe Lewis. Photo: Peterborough Telegraph
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The magic of the FA Cup is a football myth. Like honest players and agents who claim they are good for the game.

I might have become a big critic of the so-called ‘greatest knock-out cup on earth’ because Posh have been so pitiful in the competition in recent seasons, but I think the problems go a little deeper than one small club’s failure to get motivated for matches against bigger and better teams.

The FA Cup is now a distraction to most clubs. There can’t be a Posh fan among the 6,000 regulars who wouldn’t have preferred the team to beat Barnsley last week than Norwich.

Draws against bigger clubs don’t generate the same excitement anyway, unless you’re a fan of a non-league side who have fallen on hard times, like Luton Town.

Landing a big fish is no guarantee that you see any star names.

Even minor Premier League clubs like Wigan, who have more chance of winning the FA Cup than the league, field a reserve team.

The millions on offer for preserving a Premier League spot is all that matters. That’s presumably why Cardiff, who are seven points clear in the race for the Premier League, fielded an entire reserve team for their tie at Macclesfield.

Manager Malkay Mackay’s teams were on the wrong end of a shock, but afterwards he didn’t look half as upset as he was when Cardiff lost at home to Posh.

Mackay picked Joe Lewis (right) in goal for goodness sake. Proof that the FA Cup is way down on his list of priorities.

The fans aren’t fooled either. Posh were one of the few teams to see a bigger attendance than normal for their third round tie.

An all Premier League tie between QPR and West Brom attracted a pitiful 8,984 to Loftus Road, less than half their average gate for this season.

And don’t throw cost at me as an excuse. Wigan offered admission for a tenner for their tie with Bournemouth and the gate was just over 8,000.

It’s true that when I was growing up third round FA Cup day was the highlight of the season.

But then all the ties were played on the same day, underdogs used to have a right go at the top flight teams and the draw for the next round would take place on a Monday lunchtime giving all the winning teams time to savour their glory. And you wouldn’t know what your number in the draw was which made the whole thing even more exciting

Nowadays you might know you’ve been drawn away to Aldershot before you’ve even beaten Rotherham thus diluting the interest in an instant.

That draw is now conducted by a couple of former players in front of a jibbering presenter telling you who the team just drawn out had beaten in the previous round. Yawn.

And if you need one more killer fact about the dwindling importance of the FA Cup, just remember the TV rights are shared by ITV and ESPN.

ITV’s highlights show makes Match of the Day look like the Lionel Messi of sports shows.

The live games they choose to show highlight a glaring lack of imagination.

Watching reserve Premier League sides is no fun. Magic of the Cup my backside.

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