In which I guara-damn-tee, what fixtures you'll be watching on Fourth Round weekend
Whilst you can argue various reasons why people have fallen out with the F.A. Cup, one factor never really gets talked about – television companies putting on too many “blockbuster” ties. To me, the Cup becomes boring with cup television rights holders choosing too many Big 4 games, chances of there being cupsets or what counts as “the biggest draw”.
This season we’ve already seen Birmingham taking on Wolves for example for the simple reason of it being a Midlands derby and because Brum were in Championship, a chance for an upset. This is despite the fact that the two had clashed four times in the Premiership over the last two years and it could be argued that they are both at a similar tier despite not being in same league. What played out was a boring as sin 89 minutes for any neutral unfortunate enough to sit through such bunk.
Emphasis is placed too much on a potential ‘Cupset’. A good chance of getting on ITV or ESPN, the current FA Cup rights holders in the UK, is a lower league side at home against a Premiership side. The idea of capturing a smaller team beating a bigger team must put a smile on the faces of the editors at the two channels (and money in ad sales), despite the fact I think to a lot of people it has to be an incredibly small side beating a top four for it to really mean something to the neutral in the long term.
What winds me up the most is blatant bias of game selection towards certain clubs. ITV seem to love Manchester United especially with them getting on pretty much every time they have first pick on fixtures no matter the opponents. It still irks me that they put them on against Crawley last season when it’s a bit obvious it wasn’t going to be a full strength United against non-league opposition, so no chance of an upset or smidgens of Hollywood there. I will not doubt Man U are one of the biggest names in global football and they probably have the biggest support base in the UK, but I don’t want to see them on every round/week! There’s more teams that could use the exposure and money the Cup brings than seeing a team that earns ridiculous amounts already.
The Red Ribboned Trophy hasn't been treated well by Cowboy T.V. selectors. Source: Flawka
Going through the round 4 list, I can pretty much tell you what 5 fixtures will likely get picked. Here’s a quick run through...
Liverpool v Manchester United – Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. It’s already been moved to the Saturday 12.30 slot under Police direction because of the potential crowd trouble this derby may bring about. There’s a higher chance of Alex Ferguson being sacked by United than this not getting on the box. Telly Factor Of Being Shown – 5/5
Arsenal v Aston Villa – It’s a top four side at home against another Prem team, of course it’s going on (sadly). 5/5
Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday – As much as everyone, me included, loved the Seasiders attitude to attacking football, there’s no way they’ll be putting them against a fallen favourite like Shef Wednesday from League 1. 1/5
Brighton/Wrexham v Newcastle – I’d be more than surprised if neither channel picked this. Either high flying Newcastle make their debut at the brand new AMEX stadium and face a top Championship side or face off and risk another embarrassing Cupset (they’ve had a few) against the North Wales side that sprung one of the biggest of all time against Arsenal. 4/5
Dagenham & Redbridge/Millwall v Southampton – Doesn’t leap out at all. Whoever gets through from London will face off against a Saints side more focused on promotion. 1/5
Derby v Stoke – Cheeky Championship vs. Prem draw. Last season finalists going to Pride Park would be a decent choice and a shout for a cupset. Has legs. 3/5
Everton v Fulham – All-Prem game, but Everton not really firing away or playing entertaining enough to put them on against a resurgent Fulham side. 3/5
Hull v Crawley Town – Top of League 2 going to Championship midtablers would probably struggle to get on the first round of League Cup, never mind the fourth round of FA Cup. 1/5
Macclesfield/Bolton v Swansea – I was more than a bit surprised that Maccles/Bolton didn’t make it on telly the last round. The winners of the replay won’t be getting on against a Swansea side more interested in making their new Prem status safe. 2/5
Milton Keynes Dons/QPR v Chelsea –Win/win situation whoever picks this. Either League 2’s Macclesfield hosting one of the Big 4 and more recent cup winners or a proper West London derby, depending on who wins the replay. 5/5
Nottm Forest/Leicester v Swindon – See Hull/Crawley. Not even champagne fascist Di Canio guaranteed to go mental on the sidelines would get this on the telly. 1/5
Sheffield Utd v Birmingham/Wolves – On paper, I like the look of this. Fallen giants Sheffield United hosting either established relegation battlers Prem Wolves or yo-yo team Birmingham. Lovely set up for a cupset! If it was me, straight on. Sadly, I believe outside chance. 3/5
Stevenage v Notts County – No chance at all of this being on. Both channels will look at this being a League One fixture and treat it as such, with probably 10 seconds of highlights shown from the actual game. 0/5
Sunderland v Middlesbrough – It’s a North East derby but not quite the one people expect to see. Championship Boro travel to Martin O’ Neill’s Black Cats for first Tyne-Tees derby for few years. Flying Boro in Championship may give Sunderland a run for their money. 4/5
Watford v Tottenham – It’s a bit of a London derby so has an okay chance of being put on. Would like to see cash strapped Watford get a few quid for being on telly. 3/5
West Brom v Norwich – Despite an all-Prem fixture, can’t see these two being picked since they are more perceived as small teams and relegation battlers. In eyes of fixture choosers, not going to put a lot of eyes on screens. 2/5
There we go folks. For me, I can see ESPN and ITV deciding on Liverpool/Manchester United game going on midday Saturday, followed by the winners of Brighton and Wrexham hoping for an upset against Newcastle United teatime. Sunday will probably see M.K. Dons or Q.P.R. taking on Chelsea at 1 preceeding that Sunderland/Boro derby. To round off the round, Arsenal will take on Villa on Monday night. Now, where’s that producer/selector job, since I've worked out what YOU will be watching Fourth round weekend?!
(Also, I’d advise you all to skip Arse/Villa. I honestly don’t have it out for either team. I can just see it being just as entertaining to watch as Everton/Fulham and a couple other fixtures from the draw. Villa’s tactics and current set up will more than likely lead to a repeat showing of their away clash against Stoke earlier in the season since it’s against a depleted Arsenal side. So why is it going on? It’s Arsenal, a big four team which will surely but bums on seats despite it being a crap game to watch.)