Danny Murphy grew up with the FA Cup, following his team Liverpool all the way to Wembley, and then lifted the trophy as a player in 2001.
Here, Murphy candidly answers questions about the status of the cup and which changes he’d support.
Danny Murphy wants clubs to prioritise FA Cup glory over chasing Premier League riches
IS THE FA CUP A GREAT COMPETITION?
I can only say yes, though I do understand why it has gone the other way to some people. The FA Cup has great personal meaning to me. Cup final day started at nine in the morning and after my parents separated, it was a day that I was always spent with my Dad.
He’d come to ours and watch the whole build-up culminating with the game itself at Wembley. The match that stuck out for me was the 1987 game between Coventry and Tottenham, the drama, Keith Houchen’s diving header, everything. Later, I went to Wembley with my Dad to watch Liverpool in the 1988 and 1989 finals. I still feel immensely proud of winning the FA Cup in 2001 when Liverpool beat Arsenal in Cardiff.
DOES IT MEAN AS MUCH TO CLUBS AND THE FANS THESE DAYS?
Not to the Premier League clubs themselves because their priority is finishing as high as possible for financial reasons. The better your league position, the more money you collect.
But I’m saddened by managers who don’t think about the glory and going down in history. Ask fans of Portsmouth and Wigan about the day they won the FA Cup. And it doesn’t do the winning managers any harm. Harry Redknapp got the Spurs job on the back of winning the FA Cup, Roberto Martinez went to Everton and then Belgium.
Roberto Martinez etched his name in history by winning the FA Cup with Wigan back in 2013
Unlike the clubs, fans still believe in the FA Cup. I covered Arsenal-Leeds in the third round and eight thousand came down from Yorkshire.
The travelling support you get in cup games create a better atmosphere than you get for regular league matches. Think about the Tranmere fans who went to Watford and saw them come back from 3-0 down. Their reward is seeing Manchester United come to Prenton Park. The magic isn’t lost as far as the fans are concerned. They still have the cup buzz.
WOULD IT HELP TO OFFER A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACE TO THE WINNERS?
It would persuade teams to put out stronger line-ups but I don’t think it would be fair for the wider game. You can get lucky in the FA Cup draw and reach a final that way. That’s part of the jeopardy but is it right the cup winners should then qualify for the Champions League instead of a team that’s worked hard all season to finish fourth? I don’t believe so.
WHAT ABOUT STOPPING REPLAYS?
I don’t see it being a problem – but only if both managers agree before the first tie they don’t want a replay. In other words, let the participants choose. If Plymouth played Carlisle, they could decide not to have a replay and avoid an expensive trip.
Wolves and Manchester United probably didn’t want a third round replay because of their fixture pile-up. But don’t deny Wycombe a trip to Anfield if they get a home draw against Liverpool. Tranmere have just beaten Watford in a replay. To have deprived them of the opportunity would’ve killed the romance of the competition.
Murphy believes clubs should be allowed to decide between them if they want to play a replay
WOULD YOU MOVE SEMI-FINALS FROM WEMBLEY?
Definitely. Playing at Wembley has become too easy and having the semi-finals there means the final itself loses some of the ‘Wow’ factor.
And now we have great stadia in this country that could be used as a neutral semi-final venue; Anfield, Old Trafford, the new Spurs stadium, Emirates, to name a few. I can see that having the semi-finals at Wembley boosts The FA coffers but I don’t for the life of me see how it benefits their showpiece event.
GROUNDS ARE NOISY FOR FA CUP GAMES BUT ATTENDANCES CAN STILL BE LOW. HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE THAT?
There was a time when season-ticket holders were able to attend cup games. That’s not the case now so if you’ve already spent hundreds of pounds to watch league games, you might not be want to spend even more to watch an extra cup tie.
There has to be some kind of ticketing arrangement where season-ticket holders are entitled to watch cup games, maybe if they paid a small premium at the start of the season.
Premier League clubs in particular can’t need the extra gate receipts, I’d have thought they would prefer not to have empty seats inside their ground.
SOME MANAGERS HAVE HINTED THE LEAGUE CUP SHOULD BE SCRAPPED. DO YOU AGREE?
Not at all. Squads are big enough these days to cope with three domestic competitions.
The only clubs who are really squeezed are the ones in Europe and they have the strength of squad to rotate and still win. As for the other clubs, they shouldn’t whinge about congestion, many of them don’t play enough games let alone too many. A Premier League team knocked out early of both cups could play only 40 matches in the entire season.
Murphy says Premier League managers are wrong to suggest scrapping the League Cup
The only caveat I’d mention is reducing the Christmas programme by one fixture.
I know from experience by the time the fourth game comes around, your legs are hanging on and then there is the cup third round afterwards. Other than that, I am sick to death hearing about too many games. The FA Cup should be seen as a fantastic opportunity. I
know explosive players like Marcus Rashford, who also play international football, have to be aware of over-working, but in general there is too much negativity about players doing too much.
I always used to manage myself within games as well. The League Cup semi-final could be reduced to one game at a neutral venue rather than two legs but I don’t see why it should be scrapped.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTSTANDING FA CUP MEMORY AS A YOUNG FAN, AND THEN AS A PLAYER?
Going to Wembley for the 1989 Liverpool-Everton final was immense. I’d been twice before to watch Liverpool there and they’d lost both, so I wondered if I should stay at home out of superstition. I’m glad I didn’t, Liverpool won 3-2 and the emotions were overwhelming. It was in the aftermath of Hillsborough and while I didn’t fully understand the full context as an adult would, there was something extraordinary about the whole city coming together.
As a player, winning the final in 2001 has to be my stand-out memory. Some Liverpool fans came on to the pitch at the end of the game and I remember linking arms and singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ with them. For someone who’d been a supporter at the cup final just 12 years before, it was amazing.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be desperate for FA Cup success to breathe new life into his reign
LIVERPOOL, MAN UTD AND MAN CITY ALL PLAY FA CUP TIES ON SUNDAY. WHICH TEAM WILL IT MEAN MOST TO?
Manchester United. Man City won it last year while Liverpool have the Premier League as their all-consuming project. If United go out at Tranmere, I can only imagine the pressure Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be under.
WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST FINAL FOR THE COMPETITION?
If I take my Liverpool hat off, I think Tottenham-Man City final would be box office, Jose Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola.
Mourinho has built his reputation as a serial trophy winner, it’s why he has been given the Spurs job. Imagine the fun and games in the build-up if his nemesis Guardiola was standing in his way at Wembley.
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