At the commencement of the football league season, it seemed the focus might be placed on these fixtures, with the early encounters pivotal into providing an insight into who may ultimately become champions. Yet, for amateur sides, their focus may be divided, as their FA Cup campaigns begin simultaneously. Whilst a number of these teams may now be solely focussing on their league status, the ongoing FA Cup third round seems to have drawn attention back to the competition, with the entry of teams from England’s top two tiers a prime factor in this. As such, it seems these clubs may have been the favourites to emerge victorious from their ties, being superiorly equipped to their counterparts from other divisions. Yet, with Nottingham Forest winning versus reigning champions Arsenal, and with a number of sides relishing their position as underdogs, the importance of the tournament seems to be being highlighted.
With the tournament established prior to any other cup competition in the world, it seems boundaries may be bypassed for all, as players and clubs recognise the opportunities which may occur as a result of proficient performances. This seems to also be reemphasised by the multitude of teams who have claimed the trophy, in turn etching their names into the history books. Thus, replicating this achievement may lead to players expanding both their repertoires and trophy cabinets.
With the third round signalling the entrance of the most accomplished sides in England, further support for the competition may be attained, as these clubs possess a wider support network and therefore a larger incentive for fans to become involved. Yet, it may more poignantly offer opportunities for other clubs to ply their trade versus these proficient sides, and showcase the reasoning behind why they have the capabilities to be consistently involved at this level. This seemed the case for a number of teams, with Nottingham Forest’s triumph, coupled with victories for Newport and Coventry, perhaps re-emphasising the high levels of drive and motivation. With the former’s victory involving scorers from a number of positions, their achievement seems more notable, as all players seemed to be playing at their peak capabilities. When also considering Arsenal boasted the status as reigning champions, Forest’s victory signals a fresh incentive for a new side to claim the trophy, ultimately raising intrigue and competitively levels.
Whilst football league sides may naturally claim the plaudits, the multitude of Premier League teams emerging on the opposite end of the scoreline may also act as the catalyst in rectifying their seasons. Whilst it naturally might suggest the most established athletes may be absent for the tournament, perhaps impacting the quality available, it may ultimately offer opportunities for these clubs to be led in a fresh direction. This seems to be the ideology favoured by Stoke, who are now in the process of altering their manager. Furthermore, with the transfer window ongoing, playing versus different opposition with varying ideologies may highlight key areas requiring strengthening; Liverpool seem to be already benefiting from this, with new transfer Virgil Van Dijk scoring on his debut, and therefore repaying the faith Jurgen Klopp seems to have in his capabilities.
With the final scheduled for May, there seems ample time for all clubs to advance their quest to this stage, and hone their credentials to achieve this goal. This may be a similar incentive for players, as with clubs often utilising the cup to transfer younger players into professional football, and advance their transition to the pinnacle at a rapid rate, the tournament may signal an influx of pivotal opportunities. As such, the FA Cup seems to continue to hold high regard in England, as whilst the Champions League may have larger monetary incentives, the smattering of victories from all four professional divisions seems to highlight how any team may advance. With the FA Youth Cup now the most recognised trophy in youth football, and with consecutive Women’s cup finals hosted at Wembley, the importance of the competition seems to be transferred across the board, leading to the masses having equal opportunities.
Why might the importance of the FA Cup advance all areas of football towards the overarching goal of equality?