As usual at this time of year, the sport of discussing what to do with the FA Cup has prevailed over the games themselves.
It is a very 21st century debate that seems to have been unleashed from the moment Manchester United decided that a trip to Rio was preferable to a tie in the third round with Darlington in 2000, and as a precursor to most modern discussions it seems that It can only be in one of the two camps.
There’s the ‘love the cup, me’ gang, which delights in Ronnie Radford’s highlights, knows its Suttons from its Wrexhams and simply turns a blind eye when a Championship team that pursues the promotion makes 11 changes for a trip to a League One team.
Then there is the ‘change it all now’ group that delights to tell you that the cup is dead, points out that the biggest clubs don’t take it seriously and in some cases actively wait for their own teams to leave.
As with most things in football, your opinion is likely to be formed based on what will most benefit your own team, or more and more what will piss off your rivals.
But whatever your tribe, most people would surely agree that the cup needs a makeover. The key is to try to find one that suits all parties, large and small.
Gary Lineker provoked a lot of debate when he tweeted that the reps should be discarded during the rather murky Wednesday night between Manchester United and Wolves, two clubs that have European commitments this season and would surely have preferred to settle things in the original draw in Molineux before. this month.
As expected, the Lineker tweet provoked many claims that he ignored the smaller clubs for whom repetitions can be crucial sources of income.
In 2017, it was estimated that Plymouth Argyle won about £ 1 million from two televised ties with Liverpool, taking 9,000 fans to Anfield for the first goalless game and only losing the second one. The club now has a better financial position under a new president and has not really looked back.
Liverpool obviously would not have wanted that trip to Home Park three years ago, and you can bet they will be doing their best to avoid stealing in Shrewsbury in the fourth round later this month, since a replay would eat their ‘winter break. ‘in the Premier League, although the implementation of that idea has been unconvincing.
But what if there was a way for everyone to get what they wanted? So that the big boys avoid the repetitions and the small boys have the feeling that they have bloodied the nose of the elite?
The answer could come from a system available to some extent in the FA Trophy, and clubs choose whether they want to repeat the draw or not.
So, when Wolves vs. Manchester United come out of the hat in the third round, and maybe after the TV times are decided, both clubs can vote if they want to go again if there is a tie.
The votes are made public, and assuming that both do not want the extra game, then the tie can be resolved in Molineux (whether after extra time or not, I am not demanding).
But when Rochdale vs. Newcastle emerges, or Shrewsbury vs. Liverpool, if any of those teams vote for a replay (remember publicly), then one has to happen if necessary.
That gives the smaller club the added benefit of knowing that they have bloodied a big child’s nose and dragged them and their angry manager into a game they didn’t want.
Surely there will be problems when trying to implement the system. Old Trafford had a few thousand dollars in capacity on Wednesday, but you can bet that Manchester United accountants were still happy to see 67,000 fans through the door.
But at a time when match support seems to be increasingly ignored, would the biggest club really care about an extra game at home? The greater chance of finishing a draw there and maybe it would lead to managers choosing stronger teams in the cup as well.
It is not a perfect solution, but it seems to be the fairest for all interested clubs, large and small.
The cup should always be above that level of play, and in this way it would provide the shot in the arm that seems to be necessary.