A classic example this week from Gary Lineker of using a media voice to amplify solutions to a problem that very few think exist. The BBC pundit has put all his eggs in the ‘scrap FA Cup replays’ basket and has come in for widespread criticism for his Mr Magoo-level short-sighted views.
The scrap FA Cup replays kerfuffle was put to bed before his very eyes at Shrewsbury v Liverpool when the League 1 side were more than worthy of a return match at Anfield. No-one with any sporting heart could deny the Shrews a chance to go toe to toe with the Reds in their own back yard and continue an enthralling FA Cup clash.
Except, Gary that is, who despite having a period of contemplation decided to brazen it out with this foot-in-mouth beauty:
If it were down to me: I’d do away with the League Cup. Start the FA Cup earlier, not just after Xmas when everyone is knackered. Qualification can be earlier or be more frequent. Ditch replays (90 mins, pens) but give the lower league side the choice of playing home or away. https://t.co/0Q9IPLoktc
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 27, 2020
Lineker, used to the luxury of BBC studios and the kind of gravy train that Alan Partridge took cheese-based exception towards, has seemingly forgotten that the FA Cup preliminary rounds start in August, not after Christmas, and that there are over 400 sides that compete, not just the two or three clubs whinging about fixture congestion.
There were some suggestions elsewhere that replays should be ditched in favour of extra-time and penalties but let’s not pretend that extra-time will benefit any teams other than the richest with the strongest benches. Meanwhile, to go straight to spot-kicks after the draws between Shrewsbury and Liverpool and Northampton and Derby would be a soul-destroying end to hard-fought cross-divisional tussles.
Jürgen Klopp then weighed in with a totally unaware (or maybe totally aware) insistence that he would not manage his side in the replay and that Liverpool would play the kids. Well fine Jürgen, play the kids and you’ll probably lose to a crack League 1 outfit, but do your young players the courtesy of coaching them and showing them a first-team future. Matt Stead was right; that’s a d*** move.
Strangely, Klopp seemed to have no such qualms about taking to the dug-out for a pre-season campaign spanning two continents that took in games in such local venues as Indiana, Boston, New York, Edinburgh and Switzerland. Show me any sport science thought that recommends such globe-trotting preparations and I’ll show you my giant wheel of stilton. Klopp complained about the pitch at the Notre Dame University in Indiana. They probably had a better one at Tranmere.
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen injected a bit of sense by tweeting:
I can’t believe this debate re Cup replays. They are vital for the existence of this countries smaller clubs. Why are we continuing to squeeze the life out of these clubs? If teams think there’s too many games for certain players, rotate your squad. Simple.
— michael owen (@themichaelowen) January 27, 2020
That summed things up nicely but you get the feeling that we are getting to the stage where it would be easier for the Big Six clubs to depart for a European Super League than to continue imposing unhelpful changes on the rest of football, 400-plus clubs in the FA Cup and thousands down the league pyramid. There would be more than a few fans willing to pack their bags and drive them to the airport.
Meanwhile, Lineker, Guardiola and Klopp will tie themselves in knots finding nonsense solutions like the episode of the Simpsons where tree lizards take over Springfield and eat all the pigeons.
Principle Skinner: The lizards are a godsend.
Lisa : But isn’t that a bit short-sighted, what happens when we are overrun by lizards?
Principle Skinner: No problem, we simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes.They’ll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren’t the snakes even worse?
Principle Skinner: Yes but we’re prepared for that, we’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we’re stuck with gorillas.
Principle Skinner: No that’s the beautiful part, when winter time comes around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
Tom Reed – follow him on Twitter