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The Midweek Moan: Do you believe in magic? Not in the FA Cup, it seems

An FA Cup mascot. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire An FA Cup mascot. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
11:15 AM

Welcome to London24’s weekly column taking a frustrated look at the world of sport and having a good old rant to get it off our chests. This week, the FA Cup...

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"All sides rotate their squad – even League One outfit Brentford did, with star man Harry Forrester on the bench for the 2-2 draw with Southend"

Tom Moore

QPR and Millwall both saw their regular attendances halved over FA Cup third round weekend.

The R’s had a shade under 9,000 in Loftus Road for their 1-1 draw with West Brom and less than 5,000 Lions fans headed to The Den for the 1-0 win over Preston.

The third round weekend used to be one of the most anticipated dates in the calendar as minnows can be pitted against the country’s top clubs, as shown at the weekend when Mansfield went head-to-head with Liverpool while Hastings travelled to Middlesbrough.

The East Sussex side took 1,068 to the Riverside Stadium – shame on those extra two people who turned up and cruelly robbed us of some ‘Battle of Hastings’ puns – while Field Mill was packed out to see Luis Suarez and co.

Neither of those non-league sides won but the majority of neutrals would have been supporting the underdog – that’s what the cup is about.

Of course, those kinds of fixtures are precisely, to use the old cliché, the romance of the cup, but the interest in the world’s oldest and best domestic knockout competition seems to be dwindling.

All sides rotate their squad – even League One outfit Brentford did, with star man Harry Forrester on the bench for the 2-2 draw with Southend.

One would hope, with a home tie against European champions Chelsea in the fourth round as the prize, that Bees boss Uwe Rösler starts his strongest line-up in the replay.

Should the Football Association follow the Football League’s example with their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, in having at least half the regulars in the starting line-up?

There is a case for that as fans now seem under the impression that the key men will be on the bench, and therefore aren’t as excited by the game.

For Football League sides, the season started with a Capital One Cup fixture – something to whet the appetite for the season ahead.

Maybe if a winter break ever came in, the second half of the season could resume with a third round FA Cup fixture.

It’s a day for reputations to take a kicking. Cardiff and Wolves found that one out on Saturday.

But perhaps it also highlights the changing make-up of fans. With so much Premier League football rammed down our throats every week, the FA Cup barely gets a look-in.

I still think the competition is special to lower league clubs as there’s the chance of a big payday around the corner - the prospect Brentford and Southend will now do battle for.

But the top clubs need to remember how special it is. Sir Alex Ferguson’s first trophy at Manchester United was the FA Cup. Chelsea has a great tradition in the tournament, as have Arsenal.

The last thing we want to see is it being moved into Capital One Cup territory.

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