Why it's great to see Premier League sides taking the FA Cup seriously
Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Jbmg40. Used under CC licence.
For many years, it has felt like the FA Cup has been spiralling into trouble. With everything in the beautiful game, it all filters down from the top. Once Premier League sides start taking it less seriously, others swiftly begin to fall in line.
To be brutally honest, you can't really blame club owners for doing that. Financially, it's far better to maintain your Premier League status than to win the FA Cup. That's a harsh truth for us fans, but unfortunately, it's the reality.
I've never really understood why sides who're sitting mid-table have often taken the decision to rest their key names. At the end of the day, what have those clubs got to lose? They're not in relegation trouble nor are they knocking on the door to finish in the Premier League's top four. Surely a good ol' cup run would benefit everyone involved?
This campaign, I've seen a slight change. Half of the teams left in the draw fall into that mid-table Premier League bracket. In the last round, all fielded relatively strong teams. The only one who truly rung the changes were Brighton & Hove Albion; the team who currently sit lowest out of the four in the league table.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Watford and the aforementioned Brighton all took on lower league opposition but took the fixture extremely seriously. Their reward? A place in the last eight. There's a possibility that three of the four could book their place in a semi-final with a trip to Wembley Stadium to look towards.
For their fans, it'll mean the world. Crystal Palace are no strangers to big days out at Wembley, they were actually unlucky to be beaten by Manchester United in the final a few years ago now. The Eagles will have their eyes set on another showdown under the famous arch in the not too distant future.
Palace's quarter-final opponents Watford sit in eighth place in the league table. Javi Gracia's side plays some lovely stuff. They've got a good squad, they're capable of beating anyone on their day. Why not go for cup glory? With respect, it's by far and away their best chance at lining the trophy cabinet; and what an achievement it would be.
Then you have Chris Hughton's Brighton side. They're well organised and can frustrate even the most frightening of attacks. Heading to Millwall is a stern test but it's one they should pass. The closest they've come to winning the FA Cup was a final defeat back in 1983. They've genuinely got a great shot at it this year.
Finally, we have Wolverhampton. Probably the best of the mid-table sides left in it, but they've got the toughest assignment with Manchester United visiting Molineux. Nuno Espirito Santo's men could cause an upset with the home fans behind them. What a fairytale ending this could be as they end their first season back in the top flight.
Now I know this hasn't been the most exciting year in terms of giant killings and classic FA Cup ties, but the proof is in the pudding. I'm getting the feeling that the Premier League sides are finally realising the importance of the tournament. It may take some time, but it's good to see the resurrection of the oldest trophy in English football.