The magic of the FA Cup does still exist
The first FA Cup was played in the 1871-72 season and is the oldest national football competition. The campaign is famous for massive upsets and its clichéd victors, but many have questioned over the years whether the cup is losing its magic. The last club outside of the First Division to win the competition was West Ham in 1980 when the team were competing in the Second Division. Premier League side Arsenal have won the competition 13 times, which is more than any other club. It has been argued that the familiar scenario of big teams doing well in the cup has hindered its magic. We saw the same this year with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all winning their third round proper tie; Manchester City even beat Rotherham United 7-0. Lower league sides must get through 2 rounds before having the chance of drawing a bigger club. Even then, there is nothing from stopping a side drawing another club from the same league. Although it has been almost 40 years since a club outside of the top tier won the FA Cup, the prize for lower league teams is money, recognition and a big day out for the fans: this is the true meaning of the FA Cup magic. Fans all around the country watch the draw with the hope that their local team will face some of the biggest names in football. Big clubs have been known to start a weakened squad in the cup, however, this has proved to be a bad idea. One of the most recent cup upsets was at Rodney Parade where Newport County beat a Leicester side that was far from full-strength. The Welsh side’s 85th minute winner was able to prove why the magic of the cup should never be underestimated. Wolves also beat Liverpool in the third round after Jurgen Klopp’s decision to field a side that was far from his usual starting 11. Football fans saw another cup upset this season when National League side Barnet managed to knock out championship promotion hopefuls Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Winners of the third round receive £135,000 prize money, which is a substantial amount for any lower league side. First round winners receive £36,000 and £54,000 is given to second round winners. Regardless of how far a club gets in the competition beyond the first round, they are guaranteed a financial boost. Queuing for tickets in the wind and rain, match-day nerves and exposure for lower league clubs are all reasons why the magic of the FA Cup still exists. We never know what could happen.