For many years now the FA Cup seemed to be losing its appeal and was threatening to be lost in the football wilderness.
Lately though, there seems to have been a resurgence in the World’s Greatest and Oldest Competition, with teams and fans alike taking it seriously again.
For quite a few years, the Premier League clubs treated the early rounds like they were games where they could blood their youth or give their bench warmers a run out, much like the League Cup. This saw a reduction in crowds and gave the impression that if the football clubs and players were not going to take it seriously then why should they.
Here at Wigan, we are living proof that that the underdog can win this amazing competition, in 2013 our early rounds were not exactly well attended. Well on paper in any case, if you look at the teams we played, our away following was amazing.
The first game was a home game against Bournemouth where just over 8,000 attended to see a 1-1 draw; there was a similar crowd at the South Coast for the replay, which we won. This was followed up with tough trips to Macclesfield and Huddersfield; there was a scramble for tickets in the away end on both occasions, despite the vast areas of empty seats in the majority of the stadium.
It was only when we spanked Everton that a near full ground was seen, then we were at Wembley for the Semi and the Final. Last season saw the media really get behind the competition and I think that was due to the fact Wigan Athletic rekindled the dream and made the world realise that you don’t need a billionaire owner to win it.
Online sports betting sites have also have raised their game; you can now get the same fantastic markets for an FA Cup game as a League 1 game. If you had bet on Wigan winning the FA Cup you could have earned a tidy penny or two, just like if you had a punt on Leicester wining the Premier League. The bookies clearly don’t think there is much hope of us repeating the magic of 2013, you can get Latics at 250/1 to lift this year’s FA Cup.
Our last game against Crawley Town was another ‘not very well attended game’, with Crawley bringing 157 supporters in a crowd of 3,288. Wigan looked like making hard work of their League 2 opponents, but they managed to come from behind to secure a 2-1 victory and a place in round two.
To make the Cup much more appealing and ensure every team gives it their all, there have been murmurings that could see a Champions League place riding on it for the winners. The current format can see a team finishing fifth enter it, being champions of nothing, so why not?
All in all, the FA Cup seems to be making a resurgence and the dreams of those players and fans alike are seemingly rekindled. The proof will be over the next couple of rounds when some of the bigger teams will come in, and we can view how seriously they are taking it this season.
As long as the clubs, players, fans and especially the media are fully behind it, I am sure it will go from strength to strength.
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