Former Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy on the FA Cup

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LAST week I suppose was a day off for most because it was FA Cup week.

For me, and possibly people of my age group, it was always that bit more exciting, but as we have said over recent years coaches don’t seem to take the cup competitions as seriously as we all did.

I think it’s wrong. I have said before that a classic example was Southampton at home to Arsenal a year or two ago, which at one time would have been like a mini-version of a final.

It was more like a reserve game with so many changes for both sides and supporters, in particular those who had paid lots of money for boxes etc, were disgusted, and rightly so. Incidentally, Arsenal won the game 5-0.

The excuse from the coaches is that it gives them a chance to blood other players and to keep top players out in case they get injured because league games are more important.

From their point of view it is more important to stay in the Premier League because of the money situation, but also it shows that the coaches, who are mainly from abroad now, do not understand how important the cup ties, particularly the FA Cup, has been over the years to English supporters.

A reminder to coaches and clubs that supporters still think the cup is worthwhile is Saints, for instance, taking 5,000 fans to an away game last weekend. It was less than 100 miles away, but it still cost them extra money.

Bearing in mind that the top clubs especially have so many top quality players as each one has to submit a list of 25 names at the beginning of the season, that is their reason for giving some a game who are normally on the bench.

That’s another change that has happened. At one time we had a reserve league, which is now the under-23s where you are allowed only to play three or four over the age.

There are also four less teams in the top flight than there used to be and that many less games in a season, but foreign coaches have been used to a mid-season break which gave them the opportunity to get injured players fit again.

That will never happen here because Christmas and New Year is a great opportunity for parents on holiday to attend games with their youngsters.

I heard another suggestion on the Talksport radio programme, hosted by Jim White, who I have never met, but have seen on Sky TV. So the introduction says he has more connections in the game than anyone else.

I’ve often thought in these days when so many facts and figures are given out – for example how many shots on target, how many corners, how much possession – it would be interesting for someone to take the time to listen Mr White’s three hour programme and count the number of times his name is mentioned.

I am sure it will beat the world record.

One of the topics on the morning after the 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Chelsea was him and his colleagues discussing if it would be better to play the semi-finals of the League Cup on neutral grounds, as if a draw was too boring.

I didn’t hear anyone mention the fact that Bristol City, in the other semi-final, were minutes away from a draw at Manchester City.

Bearing in mind they are in the Championship they will have a packed house in the second leg with one of the biggest games in the club’s history with supporters excited. To me that is what cup competitions have always been about and should continue to be so.

The supporters have already given their opinions by the fact that in last week’s FA Cup games the attendances in more than two-thirds of the matches were a long way down, some by more than 50 per cent, on their normal league games.

This surely cannot be right and both the FA and the Football League I think need to do something about it, and remind clubs how important these competitions are all round.



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