“So replays are scrapped from the fifth round onwards in the FA Cup, but why wait? Why not do it from the outset next season, scrap all replays in the FA Cup from the start, then that keeps everyone happy.”
That was Jim White's take on talkSPORT shortly after this year's staging of the third round of the oldest cup competition in the world. On Tuesday and Wednesday we will see those sides who couldn’t be separated in early January take on each other for the second time.
For the Premier League sides, this extra game will likely be considered little more than a nuisance in a busy schedule, but for lower league sides it can provide not only the pinnacle of their season but a financial lifeline to keep the club afloat. And for neutrals starved of opportunities to watch live football on free-to-air TV these days, Tuesday's clash between Tottenham and Middlesbrough gives them a rare treat on BBC 1.
Rochdale will travel to St James’ Park to face Newcastle for an FA Cup replay having already reaped the benefits of a lucrative tie with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the League Cup this season. For the Dale, these two ties have given the club some extra cash to help their cause in League One, bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds. To put this into a bit of context, the club’s record signing currently stands at just £248,000, paid back in 2006 for Charlie Comyn-Platt.
Darragh MacAnthony, the chairman of League One Peterborough United and a great follow on social media, tweeted his disgust at Jim White’s comments:
“Ask Rochdale who will probably get TV for replay (£75k) plus gate, the difference that replay could make to their budget. FA Cup isn't just about bloody Prem Clubs. Shame members of the press cant take off their Premier League hat & see that.”
Along with Rochdale’s latest tilt at a Premier League scalp and the Spurs-Middlesbrough TV clash, Shrewsbury and Bristol City will battle it out for the reward of facing the European champions and runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool in the fourth round. Make no mistake, Tuesday’s games carry huge importance.
This season is the first in which there will be no replays from the fifth round onwards. Instead, the ties of this historic competition will be crammed into a round of midweek fixtures for the first time ever, to accommodate for the Premier League’s ‘winter’ break in February. This means that there will likely be more rotation and less priority given to the FA Cup when it could put teams just one win away from Wembley.
The diminishing importance of the FA Cup to the top teams is now more apparent than ever. But without replays we would have missed out on some of the greatest English sporting moments of all time. In fact, people tend to forget probably the greatest-ever FA Cup goal was scored in a replay.
Imagine a world in which none of these momentous games had ever taken place...
Manchester United v Arsenal 1999
Who remembers the first staging of the 1999 semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United? Absolutely nobody. The replay, however, was an absolute howitzer of a game.
Arsenal were just a kick away from ending Manchester United’s hopes of a treble at Villa Park but Peter Schmeichel denied Dennis Bergkamp from the penalty spot in the dying minutes. Instead, the sides could not be separated after normal time, with Bergkamp having earlier cancelled out David Beckham’s marvellous opener.
But this epic would come down to a moment which will always be remembered as one of the greatest pieces of play the FA Cup has ever witnessed. In extra-time, Ryan Giggs latched onto a loose Patrick Vieira pass. The rest is history...
Hereford v Newcastle 1972
Non-league Hereford battled their way to a 2-2 draw away at St James’ Park and if the game had been decided on that night, football could have missed out on one of the great giant-killing stories. Top-flight side Newcastle were stunned by local joiner Ronnie Radford, who etched his name into the annals of this historic competition with one of the most memorable goals we have ever seen. It also sparked one of the more iconic pieces of commentary from the BBC’s John Motson.
"Radford again, OHHH! WHAT A GOAL! WHAT A GOAL!"
Everton v Liverpool 1991
Fifth-round replays are now a thing of the past but one of the greatest of all time came in the Merseyside Derby in 1991, as Everton hosted Liverpool following a drab 0-0 at Anfield. The replay certainly made up for the lack of goals in the first game as Kenny Dalglish’s side took the lead four times but could not get across the line.
Having seen Graeme Sharp equalise twice earlier in the piece, Everton forward Tony Cottee poked in an 89th-minute equaliser to make it 3-3 and take the game to extra-time. Cottee would again level matters in the 114th minute to level the scores once again. King Kenny’s response was to resign, and, in the days when FA Cup games would be continuously replayed until there was a winner, the Toffees won the third meeting 1-0.
As tonight will show once again, FA Cup replays are bloody brilliant. We get to see cracking encounters, brilliant goals and, just as importantly, they can provide an unexpected lifeline for lower league clubs. The ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ is not just a cliche.