Tottenham Hotspur are gearing up to compete in the nation’s oldest tournament on Saturday in pursuit of the club’s first trophy in a decade. The fixture will no doubt fill pubs across the UK’s two largest cities, but to tell the truth, the FA Cup has somewhat lost the splendour that once characterised its prestigious history. In recent times, some managers view tournament matches as an opportunity to provide a brief respite to recharge important players for league games.
The old saying ‘Money makes the world go round’ rings more true in football than in most industries. Television rights have injected an enormous fiscal boost into the sport. Football has globalised over the past two decades, with multi-billion companies from the other side of the world investing in various teams dotted throughout Europe, and Britain specifically. To maximise the return on investment, clubs focus on the Premier League and continental tournaments such as the Champions League, which has built prestige among a fan base that now spans across most of Europe and Asia.
What was once considered the greatest football accolade in Britain has now become collateral damage to most clubs. Managers and journalists and even some fans deem the FA Cup a minor trophy, and Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino characterised this viewpoint in his most recent press conference. Pochettino has been somewhat outspoken about his perspective on the FA Cup, and yesterday, he commented that,
‘Every press conference you ask [about winning silverware]. Always my answer is yes I agree if we are capable to win the Premier League and the Champions League it is a moment of we are capable to win the Premier League and the Champions League it is a moment you say the team has improved and reached the next level. Until that, win the FA Cup or the League Cup, it will be fantastic for our fans but is not going to move the club to a different level. That is my opinion.”
Pochettino’s position is one of ambition, and of rigorous expectations for himself and his team. The objective of the Pochettino project has been to elevate the club to a higher standard, to compete for the league and to contend the giants of Europe as equals. It is this mentality which has seen Spurs beat Real Madrid at Wembley, fight back from a two-goal deficit against Juventus, and elbow their way into the top-four without the huge budgets of which their cosseted counterparts have weaponised in order to dominate the English Premier League, and subsequently reap its greatest rewards.
So in that sense, Poch is correct – an FA Cup victory is not going to change the club’s position. The monetary value of finishing higher in the League or getting one round further in Europe far outweighs a domestic cup run in England.
But Pochettino will do well to remember that a significant proportion of the Spurs fan base won’t be so agreeable. For the fans that save hard-earned money every year to see the Lilywhites weekly, deserve to have Spurs success – in all competitions – taken seriously by the manager. The FA Cup may not fit into the business plan quite so comfortably, but its value still holds true in the hearts of some Spurs fans. Spurs are a club whose history dates back to 1882 when a group of schoolboys wanted to form a team in North London. Fans are proud of that history, not to mention a record of eight FA Cup titles to the club’s name.
The @EmiratesFACup semi-finals have been confirmed!
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) March 18, 2018
Tottenham Hotspur have lost seven consecutive FA Cup semi-finals and have not won a trophy in ten years. It is impossible to win the league this season, nor the Champions League. Whilst Pochettino has his sights set on greater things – all for the benefit of the club long-term – his pre-game conferences should be used to motivate the squad, and enliven the fans, for FA Cup success instead of downplaying its importance.
The success and ambitions which the Levy and Pochettino partnership has brought to the club are beyond refute: Tottenham is a happier place as a result. But in a world where money comes first, a respect for the traditions of English football should be upheld with pride.