THE FA Cup is back at the weekend and the process of elimination continues as we reach the second qualifying round. Well over 700 teams have entered this season, so by the time the top clubs enter, most will have waved goodbye for another year. The majority of non-league clubs have little or no chance of ever meeting a big club, so the dream is largely unfulfilled. However, if the Football Association ever wants to make its premier competition more appealing, why not do away with the months of qualifying rounds and mix the whole thing up? In other words, throw Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool into the early rounds. Let’s say round one is 512 clubs (256 ties). Have a preliminary round to reduce the 750-odd to 512 and then introduce a free-for-all. Furthermore, introduce a policy of small hosts big, which would really light-up the competition and remove the need for small clubs to incur travel costs. Similar formats do exist, so it’s not reinventing the wheel, but it would provide a genuine boost to the FA Cup.
Golazzo Live – time for real experts
WHAT a joy it was to see James Richardson hosting Golazzo live last weekend. Some informed chat with Italian football expert James Horncastle, a bit of banter, highlights of the weekend’s Serie A games and then a live match. What’s not to like? Football hipsters from the 80s and 90s (yes, they did exist), eulogise about Channel 4’s Football Italia, and although you can never recapture the golden age of Serie A, it’s good to see an attempt to reinvigorate interest in the Italian game. We need more of this type of show. A lot of pundits are merely full of cliché and safety-first comments, but genuine, insightful knowledge is often found among journalists. Still, current player interviews are a lot better than those found on The Big Match Revisited from 1974-75, which is currently being screened on TV. Brian Moore’s avuncular commentary, along with other well known mic men such as Hugh Johns, Gerald Sinstadt and John Macklin, provides a stark contrast to today’s style. The player slots are often embarrassing, such as Charlie George, Stan Bowles, Steve Perryman and Keith Robson. We often expect too much from footballers in contemporary post-match interviews, but back in the mid-1970s, it must have been like trying to get meaningful dialogue out of a sulky teenager!
Tebas – who does he like?
LA LIGA’s president, Javier Tebas, has made it clear what he thinks of Paris Saint-Germain, calling them enemies of football and as bad as the European Super League. Interesting – PSG were not part of the mutiny and La Liga’s three biggest clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid were advocates. Surely, the ESL group were indeed enemies of football, not to mention, La Liga? Tebas must still be smarting after Lionel Messi left Barcelona, ending an era for the Spanish league characterised by the dynamic between CR7 and Messi. He has said that Real have the financial clout to sign both Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé, which may be wishful thinking on his part, but surely such a coup would cost big money and do nothing for financial prudence? Tebas has often criticised the Premier for its broadcasting wealth and has spoken out about both Real and Barca in the past. La Liga has just rebranded ElClasico, the match that pits Barca against Real. Perhaps this is a response to the departure of Messi, a reminder that the league still has one of the great products of the modern game and even when iconic players move to fresh pastures, life goes on?