The Double-Edged Sword of FA Cup Upsets

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Football
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Bradford overcome Chelsea

Bradford celebrate knocking out Premier League leaders Chelsea

January 24th proved something of a strange day in the world of football, as one of the craziest days of FA Cup action saw several of the top ranked sides in the competition dumped out at the fourth round stage.

It was a coupon buster for sure and gave many a person the perfect opportunity to issue the ‘magic of the FA Cup’ line that has become synonymous, despite being tainted in more recent years by clubs fielding weakened sides in order to focus on more pressing matters in the league campaign.

“It isn’t dead yet,” said the romantics of the world, pointing to a number of true giant-killings that saw the top three in the Premier League all handed an early exit from the competition, with two going out to lower league sides.

League One side Bradford City produced a remarkable comeback from two goals down to triumph 4-2 at Stamford Bridge and topple Premier League leaders Chelsea, while Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough were able to make the trip to reigning champions Manchester City and come away with a comfortable 2-0 victory, ensuring that neither of the runaway leaders in the top flight would be bothering the business end of the competition.

Mourinho congratulates Parkinson

Mourinho congratulates Phil Parkinson on Bradford’s cupset

With both Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur also making swift exits in home defeats to lowly Premier League opposition in the form of Crystal Palace and Leicester City respectively, four of the top six in the English football pyramid would all take no further part in the FA Cup, while Swansea’s exit and Liverpool’s home draw against Bolton Wanderers confirmed further top half sides either out or facing a nervous replay to ensure their progression.

A remarkable day of football, one would happily agree. Those invested in the beautiful game were quick to point out that the ‘magic’ of the historic competition was still alive and well to produce such incredible results, setting up a chance for many sides to clinch a maiden FA Cup trophy, or a first for the best part of a century in many cases.

Come Tuesday however and the conclusion of Stoke City’s routine 4-1 victory over Rochdale, and the mood was somewhat different as various parties sat down and looked at the draw for the fifth round, only to find no interesting fixtures.

A ‘dull draw’ was the verdict by many, and I will pick on in particular (though I do love and read the site on a regular basis) for lauding the ‘magical’ results of Saturday before bemoaning the lack of any stellar ties in the next round, with a number of the glamorous sides having been knocked out.

For we football fans cannot have it both ways. If you want stunning results like that on Saturday to make it seem less of a procession for the larger sides, then you have to accept that they will not take any further part in the competition and some ties will not have the same sparkle about them – we all know Derby County v Reading for a place in the quarter-finals doesn’t have the greatest appeal, with greatest respect to both sides.

Those bemoaning Bradford being rewarded for their valour with a home tie against the winners of Sunderland and Fulham’s replay forget that after dumping out the Premier League leaders and most people’s pick to land the league title at the end of the season, very few ties were going to have the same wow factor – especially with a host of other top sides falling at the same hurdle.

Only Middlesbrough were rewarded with a further big tie, only to find a large number of people merely shrugging their shoulders and proclaiming their trip to Arsenal to be the end of their nice cup run, ignoring the fact they have already been to the home of a better side and come away triumphant.

Bamford celebrates City goal

Patrick Bamford celebrates Middlesbrough’s opener at the Etihad

Aston Villa v Leicester gives two of the Premier League’s worst sides the chance to battle for a place in the last eight, while Blackburn’s half empty stadium in their victory over Swansea hardly sets the pulses racing when it is Stoke that come to town – a side Premier League fans stopped caring about/hating when they stopped playing rugby; even the novelty of seeing former Barcelona wonderkid Bojan playing for a side that formerly used a throw-in as a main offensive weapon has been ripped from us with his cruciate knee injury.

For all the joy we had in seeing these results shake up the competition in stunning fashion, the snobbery of the elite immediately kicked in as they saw a bunch of fixtures in which few sides have the prestige of having won it a few times and/or are an entertaining club to watch in the top flight.

People who want upsets to display ‘magic’ and still expect stellar ties in the next round are those who want to have their cake and eat it too.

It just doesn’t work in practice and we should just take a step back from our Premier League high horses and just enjoy what we have remaining, lest we tread on the eggshells used to make our recently devoured cake.


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