There has been complaints in recent years about a lack of respect shown to the FA Cup, amidst claims that it has lost its romance, but after this weekend’s remarkable 4th round it is clear to see that the romance of the FA Cup has well and truly returned.
Both Manchester City and Chelsea were humbled by lower league opposition on Saturday, by Middlesborough and Bradford City.
Middlesborough won 2-0 at the Etihad, with goals from Patrick Bamford and Kike. Boro beat a side assembled for nearly £250 million, with the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero failing to break down a resilient Middlesborough defence. Lee Tomlin and Bamford, in particular, were outstanding, with a fantastic piece of trickery from Tomlin leaving Vincent Kompany flat-footed.
As for Bradford City, they became only the second English team to beat a Jose Mourinho side at Stamford Bridge, in an incredible 4-2 victory. James Hanson was the only player in the Bantams’ side that City paid for, signing him for just £7500 from local club Guiseley. In contrast, the Chelsea squad included the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, and Willian, who were bought for a combined fee in excess of £100 million. The whole Chelsea side cost £208 million (or 27,733 times the amount Phil Parkinson’s side was assembled for), yet this vast amount of money was no match for the determination and commitment of Bradford City.
The Bantams attacked from first minute to last, epitomised by Mark Yeates’ decision to go on a surging run in the dying minutes of the game, rather than “play it safe” and take it to the corner. City were first to every ball, showed relentless energy and commitment, and quite frankly, wanted it more than Chelsea.
Such results like these two, are evidence that the romance of the FA Cup has returned, and this could be a vintage year for one of the most prestigious cup competitions in world football.