Biting Back: Former magic of the FA Cup has disappeared
The FA Cup is magic, or so the TV talking heads keep telling us. So magical, in fact, the great old competition we used to know and love has all but disappeared.
In its place we have a conjured up mish-mash so hard to keep track of that the excitement those TV front men continue to peddle, despite the evidence of our eyes, has long since evaporated before the third round weekend is complete.
A long weekend at that, with ties from Friday to Tuesday, a pig's ear of a fourth round draw tomorrow and staggered kick-off times, dictated by TV paymasters.
Here is a trophy that many of us used to regard as second only in importance to the league title in England (and a godsend if you were a Man United supporter pre-1992).
So, with a hundred years of history, tradition and romance as a unique selling point how on earth has it been allowed to descend into an afterthought at the mercy of crazy TV scheduling?
The FA, whose name it carries, shamelessly sold the family silver, when they didn't need the money, leaving it terminally tarnished. They and the dear, old FA Cup, will pay a high price in the long run, for where will the cameras be when the public appetite has been diminished and ratings take a tumble?
Indeed there is evidence of a turn-off from TV football overkill translating into a positive effect for local football attendances. For many years, the poor relation to the televised Premiership, Northern Ireland Football League crowds are now on the up, boosted by genuine excitement. After another weekend of goals galore and late drama locally, anyone who prefers the dross of the FA Cup third round to date, needs to check their pulse.