It may have lost some sheen, but the FA Cup – giant-killings, pitch invasions and romance aplenty – is still magical

 
Trevor Steven
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Sutton United v Leeds United - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Sutton's elimination of Leeds was one of the great FA Cup upsets (Source: Getty)

For all the surprise that Sunday’s result caused, Sutton manager Paul Doswell actually predicted that his part-timers would have a chance against Leeds if their Premier League-chasing visitors rested the bulk of their first team.

They did, and Sutton duly wrote one of the stories of this year’s FA Cup.

To some people, that represents all that is wrong with the competition now, further evidence that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant, that the FA Cup has been devalued.

Read more: Sutton fairytale continues as U's draw Arsenal in fifth round

That may be true, but that’s not to stay it’s not enjoyable.

Occasions like Sutton’s win – as well as Wolves beating Liverpool, non-league Lincoln also reaching the last 16, Millwall and Fulham both eliminating top-flight opposition – provide the magic and romance that the FA Cup is meant to be about.

Money is a key factor in the cup’s faded allure for the biggest teams.

Such is the financial disparity between life in the Premier League and outside that clubs won’t risk top-flight results – or, in Leeds’s case, their chances of getting there – for a cup run.

That is inevitable when the prize money for winning a fourth-round tie, £90,000, is less than many of England’s leading players earn in a week.

Read more: How much is winning the FA Cup actually worth?

Winning the FA Cup may be easier now, and teams who do so aren’t remembered like they were in decades gone by, but on the other hand it has given smaller teams opportunities.

When a Championship team makes wholesale changes against lower-league opponents they might as well be tossing a coin over the result.

Premier League sides, meanwhile, are finding out that a lot of their squad players earning millions are merely OK.

Romance

These same factors have made this year’s competition as exciting as it has been.

The romance has returned in abundance. When the final whistle blew at Sutton, home fans flooded the pitch, lost in the moment.

That’s what the cup is about: smaller teams embarrassing the big boys, supporters enjoying the ride.

Changes could be made to the calendar – ensuring a clear week after FA Cup ties, say, rather than the current full midweek league programme – to minimise rotation.

But until then, we should stop obsessing about players being rested; the history books will only record that Sutton beat Leeds, not how many changes they made.

Long may the giant-killings continue.

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