FA Cup replays pose problems all round
18 January 2016, 13:06
London - There are only a handful of clubs who start the season with the realistic goal of winning the Premier League, yet there are many more who can entertain the thought of lifting the FA Cup.
Yet so great is the wealth gap between England's top-flight clubs and the rest that many teams now regard avoiding relegation from the Premier League as an achievement in itself.
Given a choice between top-flight survival and a 'good Cup run', there are plenty of clubs who will take the former, with Portsmouth -- FA Cup winners in 2008 but now playing in English football's fourth-tier -- cited in some quarters as an example of what can happen when 'the romance of the Cup' plays second fiddle to sound financial management.
The third round is the stage of the FA Cup, the world's oldest senior knockout football tournament, that sees the entry of England's leading teams and for those involved in third round replays this week, it is a fixture they could do without.
With Leicester mounting a wholly unexpected challenge for the Premier League title, it will be fascinating to see whether manager Claudio Ranieri deploys his first-choice side for Wednesday's match against Tottenham Hotspur after Harry Kane's 89th-minute penalty salvaged a 2-2 draw for Spurs first time round.
The same is true for Remi Garde, manager of bottom of the Premier League Aston Villa, when it comes to picking a side for a replay against fourth division Wycombe.
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With the Premier League title out of reach this season, there is no doubt that winning the FA Cup would be a way for manager Jurgen Klopp to cement his growing popularity with Reds fans in his first season in charge.
But if the Merseysiders are to set-up an all Premier League fourth-round tie with West Ham they must first get past Exeter at Anfield on Wednesday after the fourth-tier club held them to a 2-2 draw.
If Portsmouth get past Ipswich on Tuesday they will welcome Bournemouth, now enjoying life in the Premier League in something of a reversal of fortune for the two south coast clubs, to Fratton Park in the fourth round.
For a non-league side to get this far in the FA Cup is an impressive football achievement and usually something of a money-spinner for the team concerned.
But for Eastleigh, situated on the outskirts of Southampton and a short drive down the coast to Portsmouth, the cachet they get from being the only non-league side left in this season's FA Cup may not be matched by a cash boost.
Their third round replay against second-tier strugglers Bolton on Tuesday has been overlooked for live broadcast coverage by the BBC.
Had the game been shown live on television, Eastleigh could have benefitted to the tune of 72,000 ($102,656).
"One minute we have (the BBC's) Football Focus down here talking about the romance of the Cup and the next they tell us we're not being shown live," Stewart Donald, the chairman of Eastleigh, told The Times.
"The romance has been lost a bit for me."
FA Cup 3rd rd replays (1945 GMT unless stated)
Tuesday: Aston Villa v Wycombe. Bolton v Eastleigh, Bradford v Bury, Bristol City v West Brom, MK Dons v Northampton, Portsmouth v Ipswich, Reading v Huddersfield (2000 GMT), Yeovil v Carlisle.
Wednesday: Leicester v Tottenham. Liverpool v Exeter (2000 GMT)
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