The FA Cup has lost some of its glamour and romance as the cold hard cash of the Premier League and Champions League have overshadowed English football’s traditional showpiece.
The demise of the FA Cup may just have been exaggerated.
This weekend’s FA Cup fourth round ties produced a big weekend of shocks, as the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Tottenham all exited the competition with home defeats.
Liverpool and Manchester United could also only manage draws against lower league opposition.
The most extraordinary shock came at Stamford Bridge, where Premier League leaders Chelsea were pegged-back from two goals up to lose 4-2 against League One Bradford City.
Chelsea did field a slightly weakened side, but the team looked strong enough to give most Premier League opposition a game, with the likes of Petr Cech, Gary Cahill, Oscar and Cesar Azpilicueta all starting the game.
No matter what team the Blues put out they would have been expected to beat a third tier team, but the Bantams were outstanding and deserved their win. Bradford boss Phil Parkinson deserves a lot of credit for masterminding the victory.
The former-Reading boss has helped the Bantams to cup shocks before, but as he stated this has to be the best of the best, especially after his team went two goals down.
One of the other big cup shocks of the day was ironically inspired by a Chelsea-loanee Patrick Bamford, who helped Championship Middlesbrough pull off a 2-0 win at Premier League champions Manchester City.
The young striker scored the opening goal earlier in the second half and then set-up the second goal in injury-time for Spanish forward Kike.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini has expressed his worry about his sides form and the Championship side punished a laboured display expertly. Boro are a good side, who are sitting second in the Championship table and could be winning at the Etihad Stadium yet again next season.
Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Premier League strugglers Leicester was another shock result, as the bottom of the table Foxes snatched a last-gasp win at White Hart Lane. Maybe the win can inspire an upturn in fortunes in the top-flight.
Sitting third in the Premier League table Southampton would have fancied their chances at home to fellow Premier League side Crystal Palace, but the Saints suffered a 3-2 defeat at St Marys Stadium. The side from the south coast were uncharacteristically poor in defence.
To be fair to the Eagles they are in form, as boss Alan Pardew has now won all four of his games in charge at Selhurst Park and they are suddenly looking like a major threat going forward.
Manchester United produced a very poor display at League Two Cambridge on Friday night and could only come away with a goalless draw. For all the criticism they received they will get a second chance at Old Trafford to make it to the fifth round.
Liverpool endured a frustrating evening on Saturday, as Championship Bolton came to Anfield and also earned themselves a goalless draw. The replay at the Macron Stadium is unlikely to be an easy one.
They may have endured disappointing results, but both North West giants at least have a second chance to progress in the cup unlike the likes of Chelsea, City and Southampton.
The exit from the FA Cup of some of the Premier League’s best teams will give other teams hope that they can win the trophy this season. Manchester United are currently favourites for the cup at odds of 11/4, while holders Arsenal are odds of 3/1 and Liverpool are odds of 9/2.
In truth this season’s FA Cup could now be anybody’s. As this weekend has proved anything can happen in the FA Cup and those remaining big guns could exit the competition in the next round, or even in Liverpool’s case their fourth round replay.
This weekend’s results proved that the magic of the FA Cup is still well and truly alive and well. Very few FA Cup weekends in living memory have produced so many shocks in recent years and it is good for the competition.
There will now be fans of underdogs all over the country dreaming that their team may get to Wembley and that is only a good thing for football in general.
Where does Bradford’s FA Cup win against Chelsea rank amongst the great cup shocks of all-time?