JP's Cup Trail: An Introduction

After the excitement of the weekend’s win over Rochdale, the season rolls on with another visit from that lot across the Pennines as Blackpool get cup football underway at Hillsborough.

It’s do or die time.

Perform in a cup tie or else. Such is the excitement of a cup competition, the league may well be the staple of any football season but the cups can provide a little excitement and thrill.

But are the cups still loved? And do we still care about them?

Gone are the days of two legged ties, or even the soft blow of replays of the FA cup. The cups provide a form of relief from the League, where defeat can be so costly. Cup football challenges in a way that does not overly punish the losers in the way the league does. It provides an opportunity and gives hope, but defeat in the cup does not ruin a club’s financial standing.

The question is; are the cups still loved?

In years gone by the cups would have had equal weighting to the leagues and as the season went on their importance escalates and provides hope of silverware. Sadly, in the modern game the fiscal penalty for failing in the league significantly out weighs the gain of a good cup run or success. The fans too are less interested, crowds are down and clubs know the interest is poor. The Blackpool game is evidence alone, which is cheaper than the pre-season match against Stoke. So does this render the cups useless and in terminal decline?

This is far too nihilistic a viewpoint. Football evolves and it always will. The cups have a role to play for the simple reason that knockout football is the game in its most fundamental and inherently exciting mode.

It provides the game with not only some of its most memorable moments but also its most evocative. From John Sheridan’s dink to Chris Waddle’s free kick to Nicky Weaver’s penalty heroics, it provides us with the most striking memories. How many Birmingham fans will remember relegation over their cup triumph?

Cup football is the game at its most straightforward, exciting and competitive. That will never change. And if anything, the fact that the league is so much more significant creates a pleasure of its own for the cups. For the fans the levels of stress are less and there is a chance to relax and enjoy a game of football. For the players the drop in pressure can be a catalyst for the more important games. It was no coincidence that Irvine’s tenure at Wednesday was aided by his cup exploits in all three tournaments. His team’s best results and performances were in the cups, including Wednesday’s first win over higher league opposition in a generation.

The cups DO have a role. It might be less financially important, but we need them for a little unadulterated fun if nothing else.

Bring on Blackpool and hopefully many more cup exploits this season.

Here’s hoping that they can help us hope and dream again.

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @jpowls

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