It has been a damaging few weeks for the reputation of football in this country. Tabloid scandals about John Terry are damaging and the financial meltdown of clubs is even more distressing. We can however rely on the FA Cup to help shine a positive light on the beautiful game.
Both Portsmouth and Crystal Palace have faced financial turmoil over the past month. Both have had to sell star players to keep the club afloat and Palace have entered administration and received a 10 point deduction. Portsmouth are still facing a winding-up order and administration may be the least of there worries in coming days. So the prospect of difficult FA Cup clashes this weekend came as a welcome yet daunting challenge for both clubs.
Derby matches can be the lifeblood of the FA Cup, giving police nightmares but allowing local rivals the clash they so desire. The South Coast derby is a hard-fought one and there is certainly no love loss between the two cities. Southampton were looking to add to Portsmouth’s misery and Pompy themselves were desperate to underline their Premier League superiority. Saints fans may dislike this but I am pleased Portsmouth got the win, as a neutral I felt that they needed it more.
The club is in the jaws of oblivion and the win gives some solace to their passionate support. Even temporarily it has put a smile on the faces of the fans, players and manager. It will also help financially with the club now set for a lucrative and atmospheric home quarter final against in form Birmingham. Southampton can lick their wounds and continue their fight back towards the Premier League, having given a good show for the majority of the match.
Crystal Palace have had a difficult few years with outspoken chairman Simon Jordan seemingly falling out of love with the game and seeking a buyer. Neil Warnock, himself equally outspoken has performed exceptionally given the circumstances. The inevitable 10 point deduction after administration puts the team unfairly into a relegation battle and they faced a near full strength Aston Villa side in the cup. Many sides would have capitulated considering the circumstances and it could have been a very one sided game. In fact the opposite was true, with Villa somewhat fortunate to escape with a late equaliser and a replay.
The effort and desire that was shown by Warnock and his charges was fantastic and highlights the passion and desire that he FA Cup instils in football clubs across the country. The players were motivated in part by the history and tradition of this great competition and performed superbly. Although little comfort for a late equaliser the club now have the financial boost of a replay at Villa Park. If the team can perform to the same standard then Villa will be in for another difficult evening.
In contrast to the success of these two clubs this weekend, fellow financial strugglers Cardiff were shown no mercy by league leaders Chelsea. They were ruthlessly defeated by the wealthy Londoners, with the only thing further apart than the clubs financial situations being the quality the two sides showed on the pitch. Unfortunately for the Welsh side the magic of the FA Cup can not work every time.
What this weekends games did do however is to remind people that footballers and football clubs are meant to play football. Millions of dedicated fans adore them for it and the FA Cup is the epitome of the passion and love for the game in this country. This weekend the FA Cup was able to shine a positive light onto both struggling clubs despite their situations. Their plight is sadly indicative of the modern game, with financial problems all too common at present. The FA Cup will however continue to bring the best of English football to the fore and long may it continue.
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