Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Cup of Love and Shysters

Today we live in a world where almost everything is so overrated and overhyped. I can feel a bit bile in my throat whenever someone refers to the Premier League as ‘The Best League In The World’, when it’s clear that its more flawed than a teddy bear, ravaged by a rottweiler. However, when you hear similar hype given towards the FA Cup, I think it's just.  In fact, I feel that in recent years, the FA Cup hasn't been treated with the love and respect it needs. Even by the very people who run the FA!  The big clubs are already trying to destroy it by calling for the scrapping of replays.  Replays, extra games that reward a smaller club another crack at a big boy, if they dare to go toe-to-toe with them and come out of a tie as equals.  It sums up the greed of clubs nowadays, who are only interested in their pursuit of a league place that will rake in those extra £’s, so they can spend it on another player or maybe a nice fat bonus for board members.

No doubt when half of them struggle to beat lower league opposition in January, you’ll be hearing the moaning from all quarters.  For us fans (well, for me at least) I love the FA Cup.  It gives a club from the bottom rung of the league ladder, watched by 30 people, to play against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal or Wigan.  Of course, many of those clubs are normally out by this stage, but the dream is always there for lower league clubs, some of whom are in desperate need of a few quid to pay the bills.  Latics have had a somewhat chequered history with the cup in the past – some great ties against Leeds and Everton and as a non-league side against Birmingham and Hereford (which drew 27,000 at Springfield Park – still a record crowd for an FA Cup tie between two non-league sides!).  We all remember the ‘upsets’ against Canvey Island and more recently as a Premier League side against Notts. County and Swindon, but hopefully we can overcome our tendency to lose against lower league opposition and beat a decent Bournemouth side and get to the next round. Who knows? The last time we beat Bournemouth in the first attempt at a cup tie was in the 2005/06 Carling Cup. And you know what happened then!

The weekend hasn’t been without it’s controversy though, as Milton Keynes Dons played AFC Wimbledon for the first time.  It’s a game that Wimbledon didn’t want to play, as MK are a result of the demise of Wimbledon FC.  I’m sure all football supporters would agree that ‘franchising’ shouldn’t be allowed in football and that’s what MK are.  As a Wigan Athletic supporter, I know that even we could have been a victim of this, what with a planned move to Skelmersdale (another ‘new town’) which if put through, would have robbed a town of a club that applied to be in the Football League 35 times.  Would I be supporting Skem now? No, I wouldn’t. Wigan is my local club and these people just don’t understand that football clubs in Britain were formed for the local people, not some money-making shyster.  If the club has financial problems, then they obviously need to be sorted.  But if Pete Winkelman, owner of 'the Dons', was truly ‘helping’ the club, then why didn’t he try harder to keep Wimbledon in their local area?  Or better still, move the club 50 miles north and take advantage of a building project that he was involved in and a big city that didn’t have a football club in the league.  The argument we always hear, is that Wimbledon didn’t play in Wimbledon anyway. In the right world, I'm sure they would loved to have played in their local area, but for various reasons it was impossible at the time. Does that give Winkelman a good reason to uproot a club and move it away to another city and change its name? You decide.

Why Winkelman and his cronies couldn’t have started their MK club at the level which AFC started, is just beyond me (it would have been cheaper for a start!)  They say the people of Wigan don’t care about football, but people cared enough to form a club FIVE TIMES, four of them starting in the rungs of non-league.  The fans of Wimbledon went away and formed their own club, representing the people of Wimbledon and won promotion after promotion into the football league.  The only reason Winkelman wanted Wimbledon FC in the first place, was because they had a league place, a place that was there to be exploited.  I do feel a bit sorry for most MK people who get behind their club when they get the grief they do, because when someone plonks a football league club in their area, what are they to do?  And to be fair to MK, they are starting to engage with the local community and build links with them.  But deep down, the fans must know how the club started its existence wasn’t right.  If they had come up through the ranks of non-league, people would be applauding Winkelman and MK for their project.  

Following their 2-1 win against AFC, it’s time to let things lay.  Wimbledon fans have their league place back and Winkelman and the people of MK have their football league club and are chasing for promotion to The Championship.  

You see, ties like this and the controversy that surrounds some of them and the debate it causes between all kinds of people, just shows why the FA Cup is the first and best competition in world football. In some strange way, this could actually work to calm that hatred down.  One big step could be the removal of the name ‘Dons’ from the name of Milton Keynes.  Some of their fans claim that they are the ‘true Dons’ but yet their badge says ‘2004’.  By their own admission, they have no remaining link with Wimbledon FC.  Hopefully then, both clubs can move on - MK can get on and continue building their club on and off the field, and I’m sure fans of AFC Wimbledon will continue to do the same. Here's hoping.