Following the New Meadow 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury and Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp stated his first team players, nor himself, would appear in the replay back at Anfield.
Since Klopp’s arrival to the Premier League he has shown no happiness towards the busy December period and the replay format of the cup, it seems he believes the players are requested to play too often, hindering their physical capability and lack of recovery time. Despite this, his team way ahead at the top of the Premier League do not seem to be suffering on the whole. A factor which is potentially being interpreted as ignorance when their competition is from the lower leagues who play more games than those in the top division with remarkably less money and resources.
A recent discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live heard how Great Britain hockey star Samantha Quek argued the FA Cup replay’s should be scrapped and the format should be changed to two separate pots of Premier League and Championship teams and another of the lower divisions. A disgruntled Tranmere fan was on the phone to explain how much the FA cup meant to a lower league team, not just financially but sentimentally, and rightfully so.
The FA Cup ties and replays are renowned for bringing extra revenue to smaller clubs which can become a vital input for changes that Premier League clubs do not have to think twice about. Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts explained how the money from the return trip to Anfield would allow for improved drainage of the pitch and cameras for analysis to be used in games. Something Premier League regulars may take for granted.
The FA Cup allows for extra distribution of money which is circulated within English football, vitally this money can reach the lucky lower league teams who make it through the rounds. But it is also the importance of sentiment that the cup brings. For a supporter, the FA cup can be a magical occasion and allows for that chance to visit a Premier League ground to watch their team play against some the world’s greats. Similarly for a player, who may have finished a day working, to then take to the stage lined up against world famous players, a great euphoric feeling which can’t be replicated.
Yes, the Premier league may be tasking for players who play a higher standard week in week out, but they are professional. Their clubs, if anything out of respect, should participate thoroughly in an FA Cup game as if it was any other game.
Nottingham Forest came from behind to beat bottom of the table Luton Town to move 5 points within the second automatic promotion spot with a game in hand, that game ahead is on Wednesday Night against Reading at The City Ground.
The prospect of that gap being 2 points is quite remarkable when you consider it was as big as 14 points in December when Forest were in the midst of a traditional slump during that month. However, unlike previous seasons, the slump has not continued post-Christmas – Forest winning 4 and drawing 1 since then. Along with second-placed Leeds going through another traditional slump in form has meant Forest are not out of the automatic promotion contention.
However, if they are to achieve this target they will have to improve performances, today’s match was another example of Forest not dominating the play but finding a way to win. They started slowly and allowed Luton early possession and pressure which led to Luton taking a deserved lead through Harry Cornick after 23 minutes. The goal came from the area where Luton were looking most dangerous, with a cross from the left-hand side from Potts.
The first half was a physical battle in midfield which Luton were largely winning, however, when Forest’s Ben Watson won one of these battles, Luton complained it was a foul but Forest played on and a superb cross-field pass from Yuri Ribero found Joe Lolley who ran at his full-back and fired a shot which was not handled by Luton keeper Simon Sluga, who should have done a lot better.
Forest improved massively after the half time break being on the front for much of it, the pressure told when Lolley scored with a fantastic strike into the top corner from outside the box after Watson’s good pass found him on the right-wing from where he cut inside before finishing. Lolley was a constant threat in the second half, running past players every time he got the ball. He created more chances to extend the lead and put the game beyond doubt but efforts from Tiago Silva and Sammy Ameobi went just wide.
Luton came slightly back into it in the last 10 minutes but Forest won a penalty with just minutes remaining when Silva’s free-kick struck Sonny Bradley’s hand in the wall. Lewis Grabban converted to get grab his 15th goal of the season to secure the 3 points.
An enthralling game is in store for those in North London tonight where Tottenham host Championship competition of Middlesbrough. The inform tier two side may be concentrating on reaching a vital 40 points in the league, but there is no doubt the northern side will put on a valiant effort to progress into the next round. With this weeks news of Harry Kane’s absence till April, Mourinho has interesting squad decisions to make, and the strength of tonight’s team will surely have in mind their distance from a European spot for next season. The FA Cup may the silverware they strive for in Mourinho’s inaugural season as Tottenham manager.
Another Premier League team with potential to fall with an upset are Newcastle United, who take on League one Rochdale at St James’s Park. The original fixture saw Rochdale bite back in the latter stages of the game with a goal made by two players aged two decades apart. Youngster Luke Matheson, who made his name when he equalised against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup earlier last year, grabbed the assist which booked Dale’s replay on Tyneside. An already classic FA Cup story, it seems written for Rochdale to go all the way, but will Premier League quality become too much and halt their FA Cup story?
Nigel Pearson has seemed to flip Watford’s Premier League fate on it’s head as after this weekend they sit above the relegation places for the first time season. However, his team were not as focussed as they conceded three second half goals to draw with Tranmere Rovers on the 4th January. A heroic display from the struggling League One display confirmed a replay which neither side would have desired at kick off, but one that could bring joy to the one set of fans, who have perhaps endured a poor season so far.
With current form, it would be suggested Watford would progress to the next round, but Pearson may rest his usual players for a tricky London derby against Tottenham on Saturday, as they continue to try secure Premier League status for next season. On the other hand, the Merseyside club will be hopeful for more FA Cup magic in the replay and may see a strong team out to finish a job they so excellently accounted for in the original fixture. Similarly to Watford in managerial terms, it will be argued the priority should be on Tranmere too escaping their relegation zone position.
Reflection of Huddersfield’s activity, or inactivity, in the transfer market proves them not to be big spenders of any sort, a pretence their supporters have come to terms with therefore dampening any real January excitement.
However manager Danny Cowley has shown no hesitation in expressing the necessity to bring in new bodies during the transfer period, and most recently promised the club were working hard to bring players in during a post match interview following their FA cup exit courtesy of two Southampton goals made in their academy.
In terms of the West Yorkshire team’s own academy, the past week has seen many development players recalled. With the likes of attacking minded player Rekeil Pike returning to his parent club from Rochdale, it is possible additions to Cowley’s youthful squad are coming from recalls. Since their arrival from Lincoln City, the Cowley brothers have not been shy of taking risks with the youth players, with the risk best executed late on against Charlton; academy graduate Matty Daly scored a late winner to secure all three points for the Terriers in the capital.
Largely, Huddersfield fans will argue the Aaron-Mooy-shaped void in midfield is the priority for debut season owner Phil Hodgkinson to get sorted. Not to ignore the effectiveness of current central players Jonathon Hogg – nicknamed ‘ the general’ for his control, maturity and clear passion for the team- and youngster Lewis O’Brien who has flourished in an attacking midfield position under the Cowley’s, but the evident Premier League quality of the Australian is not yet to be replicated. Consistently giving class performances in the countries top league, Town fans are well aware his rising price tag could be windfall for a quality signing to commit to the northern club.
Owner Phil Hodgkinson’s takeover was made a subtle affair as former owner, and Town fan Dean Hoyle gave protection and appealed to the fans to be patient with the clubs handling. Facing relegation in 2019, after an emphatic past two years, the humbled status of the club led to almost a state of acceptance that Huddersfield had had its time and was almost a return to reality. It was made well aware the bank was not in danger of overflowing to put it one way. Knowledge of this becomes contributor to Huddersfield’s limited hopes of a busy transfer market but Cowley insists he is adamant for new faces at the John Smiths.
Similar to recent seasons, rumours are surrounding young Premier League loanees. With Rhian Brewster been linked with a loan move to the championship after recently recovering from an ankle injury, he would offer a different striking option. Close links to the Merseyside club from the David Wagner years, who was close friend Jurgen Klopp, has seen Liverpool-Huddersfield connections before as with Dominik Solanke who was linked with the club last season. Solanke, who went to play for Premier League side Bournemouth, is an example of maybe the lack of attraction Huddersfield hold and maybe why chasing Premier League club players is not the most realistic of options.
To look at lower league possibilities, Marcus Maddison of Peterborough would be a great addition for the Terriers, with 10 goals and nearly as many assists to his name. The attacking winger could be a goal scoring source for Huddersfield who struggle more often than not to take their chances. A natural winger could be vital for the team, who are rumoured to release two wingers in Adama Diakhby and Isaac Ebenza who have not been favourited by the new manager. The outlet of a new winger could see Karlan Grant return to be a more central striker which is the position he played so well in the early days at Town.
In speaking to Huddersfield supporters, due to the lack of current concrete rumours, a few lower league names also cropped up, one being Jerome Opuku of Fulham. Currently out on loan on Accrington Stanley, he would create competition for a centre back role and is also adaptable to play at left back. His addition would raise competition for Schindler and Stankovic who have played well but Opuku could offer pace in the centre half’s position.
It seem likely that Huddersfield’s supporters can expect the arrival of loanees from lower league clubs to improve the depth and quality for some areas of the squad. As much as they would enjoy the return of past strikers Jordan Rhodes and Nahki Wells who have begun to hit the back of the net in the Championship again, as they once did so well at Town. However there is hope to be had with Danny Cowley’s obvious strive for achievement, January may just have to be a patient one for the Huddersfield fans.
Professional football clubs have an immense following within their local community with increasing influence on a global scale. With their top-tier status in society, this must used to the advantage for the people.
In the last decade, the relationships between football and charities has rapidly grown, and rightfully so. Perhaps the most famous partnership with La Liga highfliers Barcelona who wore the Unicef logo on the front and back of their famous burgundy and navy stripes for over ten years. The connection of the two organisations saw the Spanish club contribute £2 million per year from 2016, in aid of improvement of education through sport and play in countries where the United Nations charity operated. The perennial champions of La Liga successfully support this wonderful charity, but should management of football clubs begin to focus upon taking advantage of their platform to provide social responsibility?
Looking most recently at the disastrous situation down under, the destruction of homes and wildfire life has caused a sad scene for all. With premise of the Australian open being held in Melbourne on the 20th January, elites of the game have subscribed to play in an exhibition match to raise money for those affected by the bush fires in Australia. A simplistic idea but an event which will not only bring enjoyment for spectators to give break from their hardships, with participation of Rodger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal confirmed, but is also an effective money maker for the economic help the country needs.
Looking specifically at professional footballers, their social media platforms could be used as a gateway for good causes. An impeccable example is of Aston Villa man Tyrone Mings. On top of establishing a football academy which targeted those who had been affected by homelessness, just as he had as a youngster, he opened up his executive box for the Christmas game against Southampton. The regular starter at Villa Park used Twitter to announce his opening and his followers may send nominations of inspirational people who perhaps could not make the game in normal circumstances. Social media was full of praise for the kind gesture but most importantly those who spent the day in Aston Villa’s hospitality, courtesy of Ming’s, had a once in a life time experience.
Aston Villa as a club, along with many others, have a close relationship with their local hospice. Acorn Children’s Hospice have been the official charity partners of Villa sine 2006 and have quoted on their website the players regularly visit the hospice to show support and awareness for those who use the hospice and those working there. It can be a very humbling experience for the players, but with the stature of their football player title, you can imagine what it will bring to those they are visiting.
Footballers have the status and ability to make these simplistic gestures which has potential to be a once in a life-time experience. It is clear to see many clubs and individual players are aware of the positive effect they can have on wider society and do show social responsibility. There is always room for further improvements and clubs and players should be encouraged to increase and maintain their interaction within society to the upmost.