The Cup, its where dreams are made and where the underdog becomes an overwhelming favourite. That may be the case for our beloved and treasured FA Cup where teams such as Wrexham, Hereford & Wimbledon all overcame the odds to defeat the â€˜big gunsâ€™.
It may also be the case for many semi-professional and part-time teams lower down the leagues who may hope to face their idols at a famous premiership ground. As spectators we cross our fingers during the draw hoping for the big team. I understand all this and long for the day my local team progress far enough through the preliminary rounds to reach the â€˜proper drawâ€™.
But does a Cup game mean the same at grassroots junior level? For the children – yes it probably does give them a sense of occasion, for the coaches and parents, maybe not!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching two cup matches at two different age groups. First up was an Under 11â€™s game, Division 1 versus Division 6 – an encounter that could only possibly end up for one outcome? My early suspicions proved correct when after only 5 minutes it was 3 nil and I was hoping this goal to minute ratio wasnâ€™t going to continue.
It didnâ€™t and fair play to the Division 6 team who seemed to battle back and put up greater resistance, even scoring a late consolation goal – much to the delight of their parents and supporters.
The final score is irrelevant but there were more goals and lots of missed opportunities for the Division 1 team whose quality of play and general skill level explained their league status.
As the beaten team walked off looking tired and pretty fed up I asked the question, what good did this game do for any of the players? What lessons were learnt and did â€˜developmentâ€™ sit firmly on the subs bench today.
I also questioned what did the winning team learn from this game – nothing. I expect a few of the players enjoyed the goals flying in but will it help them next week against better league opposition?
Second game of the day was an Under 16â€™s game, this time Division 2 versus Division 4. Ironically a very similar story unfolded with the Division 2 team winning with an even more significant scoreline (double figures) and a late consolation for the Division 4 team. It was evident that Under 16â€™s are quite happy to carry on scoring relentlessly even when they are out of sight and the losing team will simply give up when a threshold has been crossed.
So whats to be done? The Cup is always a head turner, a recognised one-off game where an upset can be caused. Its a chance for a team to lift themselves and pit their wits against a better team. But at grassroots and junior level does it have any relevance, does it dent the confidence of hundreds of children, does it do more damage than goodâ€¦Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve got your own opinion and weâ€™d love to hear itâ€¦â€¦
Oh and for the record over 32 games last weekend in my local league ended with more than 10 goals being scored against the opposition and in three games 69 goals were scored with no reply from the opposition – is that right?