With the Premier League becoming a cash rich over hyped marketing experience – a TV show where you are encouraged to dig deep into your pockets to be part of the live studio (stadium) audience – the FA Cup has manfully attempted to hold on to tradition, even if it is no longer holds the pre-eminent role in the season that it once boasted.
Despite the best efforts of the media companies to monetise the tournament by stretching games over the entirety of an extended weekend, the competition still conjures up the nostalgia of a much less cynical and money-driven game – jumpers for goalposts, three and in, rush goalie and next goal’s the winner! The magic of the FA Cup may well be that it has managed to keep hold of its weekend scheduling, rather than being relegated to a midweek sideshow as cup competitions often are in other countries. The Cup may be deep in the shadow of the Premier League as far as the clubs and authorities are concerned but it continues to have a special place in the hearts of many match-day supporters. There is nothing better than a day out at Wembley – unless it is a Tottenham home game!
Today, West Ham make their second trip of the season to the Kingsmeadow Stadium to face AFC Wimbledon. Having eventually managed to see off the Dons challenge in the League Cup they must now do so again to book a place in the 5th round Challenge Cup draw.
Wimbledon have seen a change of manager since the previous encounter and despite the appointment of one-time West Ham coach, Wally Downes, they remain firmly rooted to the bottom of League 1. Even for a club as incompetent in the art of banana skin management as West Ham, this should be an easy ride. All that is then required are a set of further benign draws supported by wins today for Burnley, Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday. Then we can start dusting off the claret ribbons for a mad day out in May.
Manuel Pellegrini has been making all the right noises about treating the cup seriously, but with a tough league game at Wolverhampton a few days later he could be tempted to resting a few key players – or at least keep them in reserve on the bench. Even though our backup players are rarely up to the task in the Premier League they should easily have enough quality to see off today’s opponents.
Surely we will see Adrian back in between the goalposts and can also expect starts for the likes of the fit again Ryan Fredericks, Arthur Masuaku, Javier Hernandez and Grady Diangana. I am also waiting patiently for a first first-team opportunity for Nathan Holland.
Match-day referee is Anthony Taylor from Cheshire, who was previously in charge this season of the defeat at Liverpool and the home win over Palace. The presence of a big name referee being down to the presence of the BT Sports cameras – the game having been selected for its potential banana skin properties. Despite the TV exposure, the match is not one of the six ties selected for trial by VAR.
This is a nailed on West Ham win today – and by a comfortable margin. Admittedly, I have not seen the many embarrassing cup exits at the hands of lowly opposition coming in the past but you just have to believe it won’t happen again. Just need to stock up on enough supplies to last through the gruelling weekend schedule and a West Ham win. May even call in at the barbershop on the way home.