Jim White, in the Telegraph, wrote that the third round of the cup would provide “the most forgettable Saturday of the football calendar” because the games scheduled on Saturday were “the least appetising group of matches in FA Cup history.” He obviously doesn’t find either Blyth Spartans or Birmingham City very interesting.
Although I didn’t like Jim White’s attitude to games that didn’t involve big clubs, I did agree with what he wrote about the third round schedule this year, which started with one game on Friday night, followed by seventeen on Saturday, ten on Sunday, two on Monday and two on Tuesday. I agree with him that it was better when all the games were played on the same Saturday afternoon, before Premier League and TV schedules became more important than the FA Cup. He wrote:
“Much of the glory came from the manner in which everyone was pitched in together, aristocrat and aspirant mixing for a day on equal terms. Their results would arrive simultaneously on the Grandstand teleprinter, shocks spilling from the ether. Not any more. Now the programme of matches is staggered, lurching around like a New Year’s drunk, an endless splurge of results stripped of their dramatic context.”
In these days when TV audiences are given more consideration than the fans in the grounds, I’m proud that 1,000 Birmingham fans made the long trip up to support their team in the cup. I didn’t go to Blyth; my respect to those who did. I would imagine that they found it quite memorable.
Respect to the Blyth Spartans players too for their performance. They still find some glory in the Cup. The match report on their site said: “the 2014 class of Spartans have given their glorious band of followers moments to treasure. Is there a more romantic vision in the modern day game than that? It’s been one hell of a ride.”
I’m glad the Spartans’ good cup run has boosted their finances as well as their pride. According to a Guardian article, the money they received for being on Radio 5 Live and Match of the Day will be enough to cover their annual petrol bill of £13,000 to travel to league games; they travel more miles than Newcastle United. Another article reports that AFC Wimbledon’s cup windfall could total £250,000, a fifth of their annual budget and one week’s wages for a top Premier League player. The growing chasm between the Premier League’s financial clout and the rest of football makes it hard for smaller clubs to compete but I can’t help hoping that some magic remains in the Cup and Wimbledon upset Liverpool tonight.