Now more than ever it is clear to see that the FA Cup has been left behind as the money has moved the game on

The Liverpool side of 1986 celebrate completing the league and cup double in an era when the FA Cup was the one match everyone wanted to watch.
Updated 18 May 2018
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Now more than ever it is clear to see that the FA Cup has been left behind as the money has moved the game on

  • Manchester United face Chelsea in what was once the showpiece match in English football.
  • Glory years long gone as oldest cup competition in world football as become a mere sideshow.

LONDON: Perhaps everything was better when you were a child. In the 1980s, and clearly for at least a couple of decades before then, the FA Cup final was the biggest day of the sporting year. It was sacred. There could be no going out. It had to be watched, every second of coverage — from the novelty quiz shows to the interviews with players’ grandparents to the game itself. When in 1983 a family holiday inadvertently and inexplicably clashed with FA Cup final day it prompted weeks of fraught negotiations until the owners of the Derbyshire B&B we were staying in agreed to put a TV in a barn so residents could watch.
In the 1980s we were blessed with a string of enthralling games: Ricky Villa’s magical winner in 1982, Gordon Smith’s late miss in 1983, Kevin Moran’s sending off in 1985, Liverpool’s double in 1986, Keith Houchen’s diving header in 1987, Wimbledon in 1988. There might have been a sense that the league was a truer test of who the best side was, but the FA Cup was where the glory was.
There will be little of that sense at Wembley today. Jose Mourinho would, no doubt, use a win to spin this as a positive season — second place and the Cup — but in truth this campaign will be judged by what happens next season: It may turn out to have been a useful transition, or it may turn out to have been just another year in the post-Ferguson wilderness.
But nobody is pretending the FA Cup could redeem what has been a hugely disappointing season for Chelsea. Antonio Conte will almost certainly leave in the summer and his reputation will not be affected in any way by the addition or not of an FA Cup. He won the league and then, like so many managers before him, struggled to deal with the internal transfer politics of Chelsea.
The FA Cup, in fact, has proved startlingly unredemptive in recent years. It may have kept Alex Ferguson in a job in 1990, but it would not now. Arsenal beat Chelsea in the final last season, their third success in four years, but it did nothing to stem the rising dissatisfaction with Arsene Wenger, and he is gone now. A Cup win did not save Louis van Gaal in 2016. Look at the list of winning managers before Wenger: Roberto Martinez, Roberto Di Matteo, Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink, Harry Redknapp, Jose Mourinho — none were still in their jobs a year later.
The FA Cup has become one of those institutions that, like Test cricket or Joe Hart, exists in a perpetual fug of people trying to make it great again. But the truth is probably that its time has gone and that it should be accepted for what it is. The economics of football have diminished it. The beauty of the Cup used to be that it was a competition anybody could dream of winning and that, plus the fact that it was the one game that was televised every year and so could bring great celebrity to a player who performed well in it, gave it meaning.
There are still surprise winners such as Wigan and Portsmouth, but essentially the FA Cup, like everything else, is the preserve of the big sides, and they have much greater concerns. And if the probable winners do not really care, why should anybody else? There is still a place for glory, drama, shocks and teams who cannot sustain a challenge for an entire season finding a route to success. But it is now the Champions League — which with the devaluation of the group stage has essentially become a 16-team knockout — that matters.
All the talk of winter breaks, abolishing replays or ensuring the lower-ranked side plays always at home will not shift that fundamental fact. Fans, especially of smaller clubs, still enjoy a Cup final but for the wider audience it feels anti-climactic. The truth is that unless Conte headbutts Mourinho or something similarly outrageous occurs, by Monday the final will have been forgotten.
For those of us of a certain age, the instinct is always to be protective of the FA Cup, but the world has moved on.


Eriksen late show keeps Spurs on course for top four finish

Updated 24 April 2019
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Eriksen late show keeps Spurs on course for top four finish

  • Erikssen’s long-range strike gave Spurs the win over Brighton

LONDON: After bombarding the Brighton goal without success throughout the game, Tottenham was getting frustrated.
So frustrated that, with Harry Kane’s injury depleting Tottenham’s striking options, out-of-favor Vincent Janssen was summoned from the bench for his first appearance in 20 months for the final 10 minutes.
In the end, though, it was a more familiar name that delivered the breakthrough. Christian Erikssen’s long-range strike inside the near post gave Spurs a 1-0 win over Brighton on Tuesday that kept his team’s bid for a Champions League spot on track.
The goal finally came in the 88th minute when the Dane was teed up by Dele Alli and squeezed the ball beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
The goal nudged Tottenham three points clear of Chelsea in fourth Champions League qualification place. Arsenal is a further point behind in fifth place ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Wolverhampton.
By conceding a late goal, Brighton was denied a point in its bid to stay in the Premier League and remains three points ahead of Cardiff, which occupies the final relegation place.
But another of Brighton’s relegation rivals also conceded late — after scoring early.
The earliest-ever goal in a Premier League game.
Shane Long netted after 7.69 seconds for Southampton but Andre Gray leveled in the 90th minute to grab a 1-1 draw for Watford.
Southampton is three points ahead of Brighton and six clear of the drop zone with three games remaining.