LIVERPOOL made it clear this week that the FA Cup hardly matters to them.
It may be the foundation stone of football itself — but on Monday it appeared to have all the relevance of an historic pile of masonry.
I understand why clubs with a chance of winning the title, gaining promotion, or holding off relegation should be very careful about over-taxing their players after a bruising round of holiday matches.
Not to mention the possibility of profit in the Champions League.
Even big losers can be financial winners. Relegated Stoke received £3.8m for being 19th and a further £95m from TV and central sponsors.
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I doubt if manager Jurgen Klopp is too worried about the bundle that will go to Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group.
He has eyes only for winning the club’s first title for 29 years — and his demeanour on the Molineux touchline suggested that being beaten by Wolves in the third round wasn’t exactly a catastrophe.
The fact defeat also revealed his reserve strength is not in the same street as that of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea could be relevant by the end of the season.
Second-string City sides scored 16 times without reply against Rotherham and then Burton. And guessing Klopp’s intentions, Wolves fielded pretty well all of their first team.
The surprising thing is that not many middle-ranking Prem teams take such advantage.
Does anyone from Manchester United down to Brighton have better things to do than win the Cup? I have a chart showing how many first-team players were missing from each club in the third round.
It doesn’t say how many were injured — and how West Ham had six out I have no idea — but at least it provides some sort of guidance.
Watford were so cocky about winning that 11 players sat out at non-league Woking. No doubt the over-confident managers of Bournemouth, Huddersfield (both nine), Cardiff and Leicester (both seven) and Fulham (six) also reasoned there was a bigger battle to be won.
They might add that they thought they had more than enough ammunition to blow, say, Oldham or Gillingham out of the water.
This is what Chris Wilder, manager of Championship contenders Sheffield United (ten) implied after defeat by Barnet: “Our supporters didn’t boo loudly enough.”
In other words, ‘It was no fault of mine, guv’.
The Cup has been debased in other ways. Wembley, once so intimidating, has lost much of its glamour.
Used for the semi-finals, a variety of other entertainment and as a temporary base for Spurs, FA executives also wanted to flog it off.
Like a noble family on hard times, the Cup gamely struggles on. West Ham’s home tie against Birmingham drew 54,000 people so it’s a long way from dead, thank heavens.
This post written by Joshua Jones originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.