THERE is no doubt that the FA Cup has lost some of its shine.
We can pretend all we like that it is still as big as it was in the 60s and 70s but the truth is that the Premier League is more important than ever, whether it’s about winning the title, getting in the top four or avoiding relegation.
The stakes are just too high for owners to not make it the priority.
If someone had told me I was being rested for a third-round tie when I played I would have been banging loudly on the manager’s door and would not have taken it well.
But nowadays the star players often sit it out.
It is just a reality of how football has moved on.
In the Championship too, promotion and avoiding relegation has a higher priority than an unlikely Wembley appearance so star players are benched.
The fans aren’t daft, they know what’s going on, which is why crowds were down for nearly every team over the weekend.
However there is a flip side — we get to see the best emerging talent in proper competitive action and some youngsters have produced performances which could be the defining moments in kick- starting their careers.
Take Adam Idah. The 18-year-old’s hat-trick for Norwich at Preston was the stuff of dreams.
It is a day he will never forget and he will be on cloud nine, but now the hard work really starts.
He’s put pressure on himself but it is a good pressure and something he should revel in.
Mind you, I bet he didn’t have to do the chores the next day like me. I was 17 when I scored a hat-trick for Southampton against Arsenal at The Dell.
I was an apprentice and that meant no special treatment, so the following day I had to take the kit to the laundry and sort it out. The youngsters have it easy nowadays!
Talking of my old club, what about those goals by 19-year-olds Will Smallbone and Jake Vokins which saw Saints through against Huddersfield?
Most supporters will not have heard of the pair before but they certainly have now. It shows that Southampton’s famous academy, which has been a production line for decades, is still in rude health.
Yesterday another great young talent announced himself on the scene in the shape of Curtis Jones.
His winner for Liverpool against Everton was an absolute cracker and I loved the fact he complained that he hadn’t been getting enough chances at a club which is beating everyone in its path.
He’s only 18 yet he knows what he wants and is determined to get it.
Patience does not appear to be a virtue in football these days. Young players are hungry for first-team action and want it now.
I haven’t even mentioned Phil Foden, who scored for Man City against Port Vale.
He’s only 19 but we’ve been talking about him for so long, he seems like a veteran!
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So even though the FA Cup is changing the traditionalists like me still love it despite the fifth round moving to midweek, away from a previously sacrosanct weekend programme. There is still plenty to shout about.
There is very little that beats seeing your team parading that trophy round Wembley stadium in May.
As a former Newcastle player and fan who has never experienced that happening to my team, believe me I remain very envious of those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy that moment.
This post written by Matt Heath-Smith originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.