Sweet FA ... gone a bit quiet at HQ over the FA Cup hasn’t it?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The Premier League has agreed on a return date, but the world’s oldest knockout competition, the FA Cup, seems to have taken a bit of a back seat as Chris Lakey discusses, without the need of yellow and green tinted glasses, of course...
Norwich City’s FA Cup CV isn’t much to shout about.
The last time they got to the semi-final stage was 1992 and before that 1989 - that was something of a purple patch in the relationship between club and cup.
The 1958-59 cup run was the most famous of all, given City’s status as a Division Three side, plus the fact they conquered Manchester United and Tottenham on the way to the last four, before succumbing to Luton Town.
But, in truth, Norwich City and the FA Cup have never been comfortable bed-mates.
This year, they have made it to the quarter-finals, having beaten Preston, Burnley and Tottenham - all away from home. Next up was due to have been Manchester United, at Carrow Road. That was back in March.
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Now it’s ... hopefully, some time soon-ish.
The quarter-final tie is one of 10 games City have to fit in between now and the end of the season, which the Premier League hope will be the end of July to fall into line with Uefa’s plan to complete domestic seasons in time for the Champions League final on August 29.
So, with the season resuming on June 17 and City expected to play during the weekend of June 20-21, that’s do-able. Had they pushed it back to June 26 it would have been far too cramped, with no room for error. It would have meant a weekend game and a midweek game every week until the end of August.
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There are seven other teams with quarter-final ties, and three of them – Manchester City, Sheffield United and Arsenal, actually have 10 league games to play.
And of course, whoever gets through the FA Cup quarter-finals will then have a semi-final and, for two teams, a final to get in as well. It would mean midweek semi-finals before the final on August 8. Because we do know that’s when they want to play the final.
The question of the Premier League and its resumption has taken priority: the Premier League run the show, while the FA appear to be this strange rubber-stamping mechanism that simply does what it is told. Forgive me if that’s incorrect: it’s just the feeling you get.
But when have the FA said what they plan to do with their biggest prize? Well, they haven’t, not really. A bit of Sherlock Holmes work was needed to unearth a statement on their website headed ‘An update on non-league, women’s and grassroots football seasons’ - and buried at the bottom of that was a piece that included the following: “We are reviewing all options as we seek to complete these competitions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Really? Football should take a leaf out of the government’s book (yes, I know that’s not great timing) and have a proper media conference, via video link, after each shareholders’ meeting.
We seem to get a very dull statement with no comment, and that’s it, until selected interviewees get a chat with someone.
The daily government briefings do have an air of farce about them, I know – three people in a very stately room, with a TV in the corner where they can see the journos asking them questions. Or, if you are Iain Watson of the BBC, see him moving his lips, but nothing else. But what is important is that journalists do get to ask questions. A colleague here at Archant towers, Jessica Frank-Keyes, got to ask one, so they’ve shared it around pretty well. Why couldn’t the Premier League do that? This is a major talking point, not just in sport, so it cannot be beyond the realms of possibility that half a dozen journalists get an opportunity to ask questions. Otherwise, it’s a media bun fight which just ends up with speculative stories. It has to be stressed here that certain subscription TV channels think the only sports journalists who know anything are from the national press. That is not true. The regional press, which has a major stake in what happens on football at all levels, has some brilliant minds.
Anyway, little rant over with... but the point remains, the Premier League could disseminate information in a much better way. The clubs don’t help either - they just re-release the Premier League statement on their websites, as per instructions, no doubt. So the FA Cup questions have been left sitting in the back seat struggling to get a view into the future.
Norwich City have more than a passing interest this season - and I’d like to ask what’s happening with it. There is also a point that needs to be made over player welfare. Research by artificial intelligence platform Zone7, which specialises in injury risk forecasting and works with 35 professional football teams worldwide, shows playing eight matches in a 30-day period increases the incidence of injury by 25pc when compared with playing four to five matches in the same time frame. Eight matches in 30 days may seem nothing out of the ordinary, but only four per cent of players across a season are subjected to such a run.
Maybe we’ll see weakened teams sent out: particularly by clubs who have other important matters to consider – like European competition. Or Premier League survival.