James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: A simple solution to the FA Cup problem

This weekend's FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley should be the sole focus of attention
This weekend's FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley should be the sole focus of attention

This weekend Greg Dyke, the Football Association’s ebullient chairman, will appear live on national radio tomorrow as part of a project designed to identify ways of re-energising the FA Cup.

It should prove compulsive listening, especially for those Sheffield United and Hull City supporters travelling down to London for Sunday’s semi-final between their respective teams at Wembley. Ultimately, though, the phone-in is likely to be an exercise in waffle, sycophancy and PR guff.

Why? Because I can provide Dyke with an answer in just 12 short words.

“Do not schedule fixtures on the same day as Premier League games.” Simple.

Okay, so it is impossible to avoid a clash during the earlier stages of the competition. But, during the later showpiece rounds, surely the two organisations can reach some sort of compromise whereby, for example, we avoid the type of situation which sees Yorkshire’s two remaining representatives going head to head at the same time as Chelsea face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium? Or minutes after Liverpool and Manchester City finish another fixture set to decide to outcome of the title race?

Even in pure marketing terms, promoting the English game’s brand at home and abroad, it is in the best interests of the FA and FAPL to emphasise the importance of a tournament which has history, prestige and habit of providing shock results.

The cup’s stock was highest when folk, even if their favourite clubs were not involved, gathered around the television to watch these battles unfold. When the tournament was an occasion which brought families and friends together.

The sole focus of attention rather than simply another addition to the footballing calendar.

Meanwhile, in a different note entirely, I wonder if Steve Evans was wearing clogs on Tuesday night?

United, making eight changes to the side which had drawn with Leyton Orient three days earlier, beat Rotherham 1-0 courtesy of Ben Davies’ 89th minute goal.

“Nigel (Clough) is quite right to say he won’t risk anyone,” Evans, the visitors’ manager, said before travelling to Bramall Lane. “But if I turn up and they have made eight changes then I’m a Dutchman. That’s not going to happen.”

Hmmm.