Plans for a winter break are just another way of the Premier League gobbling up more of the pie

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 20 April 2018, 09:49

JOHN TERRY was never the fastest over twenty metres but in football timing is everything.

Chelsea’s old skipper knew more often than not exactly what to do and at what time and it will ensure he will go down in history as one of the best players of all time.

All of which brings us neatly onto the FA Council meeting this week and the rising debate about English football’s top flight adopting a winter break.

Just as almost 200,000 people prepare to decamp from all points up and down the land for Wembley to watch the FA Cup semi finals, the oldest trophy in the world takes yet another kicking at the expense of the pursuit of wealth.

In order to give overworked millionaires in the Premier League some time off to rest their legs in February, the suggestion has been made to move the FA Cup fifth round to midweek and to play the ties to a finish on the night.

The Premier League was initiated in 1992 - the FA Cup in 1872. Shouldn’t the young be looking after the elderly instead of shoving them out of the way?

One of the most appealing aspects of the FA Cup is that ‘Saturday’ feeling. The anticipation of a long road trip coupled with the hope of witnessing a miracle when 5,000 fans from non-League travel to a Premier League ground, or the ominous sense of foreboding when it’s the other way round.

FA Cup ties are also the times when clubs reduce ticket prices and so more kids go. How’s that going to work on a school night?

Moving the fifth round - just when the competition starts to get serious - is a scandal that has been simply brushed aside because everyone is dazzled by the bright lights of the Premier League.

And why that is the case is beyond me. Six teams can win the Premier League, three go down and the rest just sit in the middle trying to exist.

Yet look at Southampton - going down but also going to Wembley this Sunday thanks to the FA Cup.

While it might mean nothing to Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has loftier ideas about his team’s realistic ambitions, just wait and see when Spurs play Manchester United on Saturday how important it is to the supporters.

United fans at Bournemouth on Wednesday night were singing songs throughout the game about going to Wem-ber-lee.

The fact that the semi finals are held there is travesty enough, it has greatly eroded the sense of achievement simply playing at the national stadium and with it that special feeling of Cup final day.

Umpteen live televised games every year means the final itself - kick off moved to 5.30pm - is just more TV wallpaper to play as a soundtrack to people casually supping pints in pubs.

What was once the biggest game of the season is now thrown into mix alongside Stoke v Leicester, Watford v West Ham, and Burnley v Everton.

People like Mauricio Pochettino are killing the Cup which is still revered among diehard English football fans. But he is not alone.

The Premier League stands accused of ruining the England team with its obscene wealth drawing in players from all over the world at the expense of our own and placing club competition above national interest.

The plan put forward for a break is being canvassed as a rescue package for England. Give the players some time off and we’ll bring the World Cup home.

Why the FA Cup should have to pay the price is beyond me.

The issue is not the number of games. It’s the mantra that the Premier League overrides everything else in football. Until that changes nothing else will.

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Laurent Banide
(Oldham Athletic)
19th September
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