Whatever happened to the romance of the FA Cup

Last updated : 15 January 2003 By Tony Scholes

The official attendance was just 5,436 with most people citing the cost as the reason for staying at home and keeping up with proceedings via Ceefax. What they missed was Burnley’s biggest FA Cup victory since Grimsby’s neighbours Scunthorpe went down 5-0 at the Turf in a 1st Round 2nd Replay in 1989/90 season.

In boxing they don’t always wait for a knock out, the referee has the power to stop the fight himself, and had this been a boxing match then I think referee Graham Laws would have finished it by 8 o’clock so one sided was it.

This was the Grimsby side that had fought back from two behind in the first match and the same Grimsby who had hit us for six in an earlier league game but tonight they looked pretty incapable of mounting a solitary attack never mind score goals.

With two stands closed it was never going to be a good atmosphere and at times it was almost as if it was reserve team football, where players could be heard easily everywhere on the ground.

And this the FA Cup. This was the competition that had crowds flocking to grounds not so many years ago. An FA Cup tie could guarantee a bigger crowd than the equivalent league game. But for a variety of reasons this is no longer the case and it is so sad to see the old competition treated so shabbily.

Not that I am having a go at those who stayed away, it is just that this competition has been devalued in so many ways supporters can no longer get too excited about it. And sadly the FA think they can put it all right by moving the draw back to a Monday lunchtime.

Tonight though it is somewhat difficult to judge just how well the Clarets really did play because the opposition were so bad. In 90 minutes they failed to trouble us once and Nik Michopoulos didn’t have a single save to make.

But our defenders did play well and Mark McGregor (my man of the match) and Arthur Gnohere were a solid central pair, yes the same central pair who started the league game against Grimsby at Blundell Park. There was never going to be a repeat tonight though and both had outstanding games.

We dominated midfield and this meant that there were opportunities for the forwards, seemingly almost too many opportunities as we created chance after chance. It took us 25 minutes to get ourselves in front and what a superb strike it was from Ian Moore from not much short of 30 yards.

His left footer gave keeper Danny Coyne no chance at all as it rocketed against the back of the net. Surely that would open the floodgates but incredibly we couldn’t add another goal during the rest of the first half and we had to settle for a 1-0 lead at half time and a change of half time entertainment.

There was no ex-Claret to make the half time draw tonight but a real Claret, a real Burnley supporter who can be seen on our television screens on a regular basis. He once tried to rape Gail Tilsley in Coronation Street, certainly got up to no good in a pair of gloves in Band of Gold, and now can be seen as Jarvis in Emmerdale. But none of it is for real and we welcomed out onto the pitch locally born actor Richard Moore.

Richard certainly changed nothing as far as the football was concerned because the second half followed the pattern of the first half, one way traffic towards the Grimsby goal. But still we couldn’t get a second. It was suggested that we struggle to keep 2-0 leads and so Stan had probably told them to stick at one.

You wouldn’t have thought so as we opened up Grimsby at will but whatever we did there was no second goal. At times we were certainly guilty of trying to walk the ball in and there was one moment when Tony Grant was set up perfectly on the edge of the box but chose to try and play a pass rather than have a shot at goal.

One goal leads are never enough though so regardless of the nervousness of a 2-0 lead I was pretty relieved when the second came eleven minutes from the end via a wonderful piece of trickery from Glen Little.

Glen appeared to lose the ball at least a couple of times as he dribbled through inside the box and eventually had his back to goal. At that point he swivelled round and hit it into the corner to the keeper’s left.

Never mind a two goal lead, there was no way this Grimsby team were coming back. And so it proved as we scored twice more and still could have had more.

The third was from a penalty that referee Laws initially waved away. Less than a minute earlier he had missed a spot kick at the other end when Graham Branch fouled Terry Cooke and he certainly missed this one. The assistant didn’t though and after a long consultation between the two the ball was on the spot for Robbie Blake to make it three.

Blake then left the field and the roof lifted as he was replaced by Andy Payton. Could he just mark his return with a goal we thought. The answer was no but we did get a fourth and the best goal of the game.

Ian Moore picked the ball up on the half way line almost on the touchline in front of the Bob Lord Stand. He turned two Grimsby players that allowed him to run towards goal. He saw off two more defenders before moving into the box and sliding the ball in past the oncoming Coyne with ease.

That was it, a more than comfortable 4-0 win and a place in the 4th round and a trip to Brentford in what has been called the greatest cup competition in the world. Tonight showed that to be a nonsense and things really need to be looked at when so few bother to turn up. The attendance was hardly higher than that for the first game at Blundell Park and questions really do need to be asked.

How good were Burnley tonight? We played well make no mistake about that but we were hardly tested by a Grimsby side that looked like a non-league team that had failed to rise to the occasion.

You can only beat the team you are playing though and in the end we did that with ease. We never looked troubled at the back, where as said previously Arthur and McGregor were excellent. Against a side though that gave the ball away so cheaply and in a game where we could create chances at will we should have had it wrapped up long before we did.

The cup competitions are all about making money for us now and we certainly had some success in that respect in the Worthington Cup. To do likewise in this competition requires us to get a draw that will bring in a decent size crowd and that won’t be happening in the next round either.

The same can be said of our trip to Brentford as was said of the game at Huddersfield in the Worthington, as important game as we will play all season. We need to reach the 5th round and hopefully get a televised game. That would bring in an extra £265,000 plus the prize money we get each round for winning. The prize money for tonight’s win is £50,000.

But forget the money for a while and just try and imagine the magic of the FA Cup as it used to be, what a pity tonight was almost like watching a reserve game with so few there.

The teams were,

Burnley: Nik Michopoulos, Dean West (Ian Cox 88), Mark McGregor, Arthur Gnohere, Graham Branch, Glen Little, Tony Grant, Paul Cook, Alan Moore (Dimitri Papadopoulos 70), Robbie Blake (Andy Payton 87), Ian Moore. Subs not used: Gordon Armstrong, Matthew O’Neill.

Grimsby: Danny Coyne, Wes Parker (Iain Ward 70), Steve Livingstone, Steve Chettle (Christopher Thompson 75), Tony Gallimore, Terry Cooke, Paul Groves (Chris Bolder 87), Stuart Campbell, Darren Barnard, Darren Mansaram, David Soames. Subs not used: Jonathan Rowan, Greg Young.

Referee: Graham Laws (Whitley Bay).