In an era of billion-pound investments in the top tier of English football, the FA Cup has once again provided us with reassurance that football is, and always will be, the game for everyone.
The slowly decreasing sentiment-levels of English football have made the labour of supporting the Premier League somewhat habitual, rather than the actively enjoyable pastime it once was. Occasionally, a pyramid with so much disparity from top to bottom requires a leveller – a reminder that it’s a sport for all – and not just those who choose to follow the dollar.
The FA Cup used to be that platform, but in recent years it has threatened to follow the same muddled path to insignificance as the League Cup. With fixture congestion, more and more top clubs have rested players in these clashes; undermining its credibility somewhat. In that sense, we’ve been deprived of a high-profile cup upset with genuine merit for a while now.
That’s with all due respect to Lincoln City who were a non-league outfit when they knocked out Burnley in last year’s competition. The Clarets started with Andre Gray up top – who cost a club record £6 million.
Struggling against Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic, Pep Guardiola felt it necessary to introduce a £100 million duo in Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne from the bench. All in all, Wigan were tasked with overcoming a mere £475 million worth of talent on Monday night. Despite how it’s felt for so long, there was some solid evidence to suggest that the game isn’t all about spending power.
A lot has been made of the club’s hoodoo over Manchester City in the past, but it’s irrelevant and to pay full respect to the current group of players – both, in fact – you have to take this game for what it was.
The red card certainly helped, but it happens. That’s part and parcel of football.
The fact remains that Manchester City had ninety minutes and over eighty per cent possession to score a goal against Wigan Athletic and they couldn’t manage it. What did transpire, however, was Will Grigg outpacing £50 million full back Kyle Walker to the ball – and slowly curling it around the outstretched arms of Claudio Bravo.
Sometimes for all the attacking talent you may possess, getting the ball in the danger areas via a big punt upfield can be effective. Yes you, at home reading this – you – can produce that ball with relative ease. It’s what makes the game so everyday. Until now, sheikhs and oligarchs seemingly overhauled any hope of English football retaining its romantic element.
There’s something quite satisfying about Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan being briefed on how a bloke who managed Sligo Rovers for five years overthrew his galacticos in the country’s most prestigious cup competition.
‘Your shares in the Qatari property market are up 5%, we’ve set aside $4 billion into the hedge fund like you wanted, your son has wasted more money on bloody Bitcoin – and apparently William Grigg is on fire; thus knocking your Manchester investment on its arse.’