As usual at this time of year, the sport of discussing what to do with the FA Cup took precedence over the matches themselves.
It’s a 21st century debate that seems to have raged since Manchester United decided that a trip to Rio was preferable to a third-round draw with Darlington in 2000, and as a precursor to most modern discussions it seems like you can only be in one of the two fields.
There is the band “I love the cup, I”, which celebrates the highlights of Ronnie Radford, knows their Sutton from their Wrexhams and turns a blind eye when a team chasing the promotion makes 11 changes for a trip in a suit of the League One.
Then there is the ‘change everything, now’ much that delights in telling you that the cup is dead, indicates that the bigger clubs do not take it seriously and in some cases actively hope that their teams will come out.
As with most things in football, your opinion is likely to be formed based on what will benefit your team the most, or increasingly what will anger your opponents the most.
But whatever your tribe, most people would certainly agree that the cup needs a makeover. The key is trying to find one suitable for all parts, large and small.
Gary Lineker sparked much debate when he tweeted that the replays should be eliminated during the turgid Wednesday night between Manchester United and Wolves, two clubs that have European commitments this season and would certainly have preferred to fix things in the original draw in Molineux previously this month.
Predictably, Lineker’s tweet sparked many claims that he was ignoring the smaller clubs for which replays can be crucial sources of income.
In 2017, it was estimated that Plymouth Argyle earned around £ 1 million from two television ties with Liverpool, bringing 9000 fans to Anfield for the first game without goals and only losing the second by a little. The club is now in a better financial position under a new president and hasn’t really looked back.
Liverpool obviously wouldn’t have wanted that trip to Home Park three years ago, and you can bet they’ll do everything they can to avoid fishing at Shrewsbury in the fourth round later this month, as a replay would have served their “break.” Winter League “, however much the implementation of that idea has been put into practice.
What if there was a way for everyone to get what they wanted? For big guys avoid replays and kids have the feeling of having bloodied the elite’s nose?
The answer may come from a system available to some extent in the FA Trophy, with clubs choosing 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 perhaps after the TV times have been decided, both teams can vote if they want to go again in the event of a tie.
The votes are then made public and assuming that both will not want the extra game, so the draw can be resolved in Molineux (or after overtime or not, I’m not picky).
But when Rochdale vs Newcastle, or Shrewsbury vs Liverpool emerge, if one of these teams were to vote for a replay (remember publicly), then if you need one, you have to do one.
This gives the smaller club the advantage of knowing that they have bloodied a kid’s nose and dragged them and their angry manager into a game they didn’t want.
There are definitely problems with trying to implement the system. On Wednesday, Old Trafford was down a few thousand capacity, but you can bet that Manchester United’s accountants were still happy to see 67,000 fans over the door.
But at a time when the corresponding support seems to be ignored more and more, would the bigger club really be bothered by an extra home game? The heightened prospect of ending a draw there and therefore perhaps would also lead managers to choose stronger teams in the Cup.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to be the right one for all interested clubs, large and small.
The cup should always be on that level and in this way would provide the shot in the arm that seems necessary.