Games for kids: Is time up for the local English cup?

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Ro-Shaun Williams of Shrewsbury Town has his head almost kicked in during a high tackle by Liverpool’s Harvey ElliotPHOTO: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images
Ro-Shaun Williams of Shrewsbury Town has his head almost kicked in during a high tackle by Liverpool’s Harvey ElliotPHOTO: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Over the past two seasons, Liverpool earned £192.5 million (R3.71 billion) in the Uefa Champions League, which they qualified for after finishing fourth and second in the Premier League in the preceding seasons.

During the same time, the Reds earned £67 500 from their participation in both the FA Cup and the League Cup. In other words, they received 0.035% of the money they made in the Champions League for playing in two domestic cup competitions.

Their performance this season in the English cup competitions has not been much better than in the past two years.

After beating MK Dons and Arsenal in the League Cup, Liverpool faced Aston Villa in the quarterfinals and were beaten 5-0.

The team, however, consisted of just two players who had any Premier League experience, and Pedro Chirivella and Harvey Elliott had both played in just one league game each.

The rest of the team consisted mainly of teenagers, who, on the night, were coached by Under-23 coach Neil Critchley.

A day later, Liverpool beat Mexican club Monterrey in the Club World Cup semifinal played in Qatar, with Jürgen Klopp back on the bench and the likes of Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson on the pitch.

Last weekend, Liverpool travelled to Shrewsbury for their FA Cup fourth-round tie. Despite the Reds’ two-goal lead, the team from the third tier of English football came back to force a replay. Klopp has said he would not be at that game, nor would his top-flight players.

“We will not be there. It will be the kids who play that game. Does that mean I won’t be there? Yes. Neil Critchley will be in charge.”

Klopp’s decision stems from a letter that all Premier League clubs received last year that informed them that they needed to respect a short winter break that would see all clubs not play for up to 13 days.

But for the four Premier League teams involved in next week’s FA Cup replays – Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Newcastle United – the break will be cut short, and Klopp is not alone in his anger.

Southampton coach Ralph Hasenhüttl, who had planned to take his team on a warm-weather break outside England, had to cancel the training camp.

“Now we have a replay in our winter break and that doesn’t make sense for me,” he said.

And their stance is nothing new.

Bournemouth did it, Watford did it and Liverpool did it before. Does any football fan remember David Faupala?

In February 2016, the French striker was one of five teenagers in their first full game at Manchester City against Chelsea in an FA Cup fifth-round match.

Chelsea won 5-1 and Faupala, for whom the game against Chelsea was his only for the first team, moved on to play for NAC Breda, Chesterfield and Zorya Luhansk. He is currently signed with Norwegian second division team Jerv.

In the 1999/2000 season, Manchester United became the first FA Cup winners to not defend their title as they decided to play in the then eight-team Club World Cup instead, as the timing of the global competition clashed with the FA Cup.

However, the FA Cup is not only the oldest cup competition in the world, it is also a football tournament where dreams are made – where a 45-year-old goalkeeper can sit on the subs bench eating a pie as his fifth-division team-mates from Sutton take on an Arsenal side that is 105 places higher in the football pyramid.

But since ever more money has been thrown at top-level football, in particular the Champions League and the Premier League, the focus of the top clubs has been on those two lucrative competitions rather than on playing in the domestic cup.

Similarly, the days when fans of a tenth-tier club such as Histon could welcome Manchester United for a preseason friendly are long gone. Instead, the top Premier League sides prepare for the new season by playing big-money friendlies in Asia or the US.

Following the Klopp controversy, the FA hit back at the German coach, saying all clubs had accepted the FA Cup dates.

Klopp retaliated: “I know the FA said that all the clubs agreed, but no sports-responsible people were there. There was not a manager or sporting director, and that’s what we need. Otherwise, we will have the same situation next year.

“I think all people in football agree that all things need to change.”

Traditionalists will, of course, argue that football has changed so much already that it is hardly recognisable for the sport it once was.

Whether there are more changes in the pipeline remains to be seen.


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