Fulham manager Mark Hughes fears that the FA will kill the ‘romance and magic’ of the FA Cup with proposed changes for the 2012/13 season.
The FA are weighing up plans to scrap replays altogether and seed teams in future years, potentially putting an end to David and Goliath battles such as non-league Crawley Town’s trip to Manchester United on Saturday.
But Hughes, who will lead the Cottagers against fellow top-flight outfit Bolton Wanderers in a fifth-round tie on Sunday, believes the proposed changes will spell the end of the competition altogether.
“I think the romance and magic of the FA Cup is bound very closely to playing non-league teams and difficult away fixtures and ties and that’s why it’s such a competition,” Hughes said.
“I think the suggestion is they will try and seed teams and I think that would kill the competition to be perfectly honest.”
“I can only speak for myself and my players and I know that we’re looking forward to the game on Sunday, I know that we want to progress.”
“I think it’s about priorities and maybe some clubs, managers and players to a certain extent have different priorities these days in terms of going for Champions League positions or just trying to stay in the Premier League and that has maybe changed the focus from what it would have been years ago.”
“But if you’re in the competition, why not try and go as far as you can – that’s certainly been my attitude to it.”
Hughes also indicated he would continue to show ‘respect’ for the FA Cup by picking a strong side to face Bolton, who have enjoyed a charmed run into February with league victories over Wolverhampton and Everton and Wednesday’s defeat of Wigan Athletic in a fourth-round replay.
“I’ve picked strong teams in fairness right from the beginning,” Hughes said.
“That’s what I do, I like to have a go in the cups and there are not that many competitions that you realistically have a chance to have a run in, so why give up that opportunity easily.”
“So we’ll try and give the competition the respect it deserves and see how far we can go.”
“Bolton are a good team, I watched them on Wednesday and I think they were worthy winners in fairness and that wasn’t with a full strength side.”
“They have lost players, we may benefit from that but obviously it just depends on what team Owen Coyle picks.”