Tony Gillan: Forget face twister Jurgen Klopp - we need to keep the FA Cup replays

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is generally thought of as a ceaseless smiler and the jauntiest German ever to patrol a technical area (and imagine the competition for that title).

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 7:00 pm
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

But there is reputation and then there is reality.

Mark Twain, in an article for Chat! magazine, said: “Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ‘til noon.”

Klopp is actually as much of a face twister as Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger ever were (although Mourinho still stands alone in the arena of tantrum throwing).

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Old Clippety’s indignation at the prospect of lowering himself to attend his side’s FA Cup replay against League One riff-raff Shrewsbury Town was not an edifying spectacle.

Consequently he abandoned his duties and simply didn’t bother attending; insisting that it was a matter of principle and not because the telly was good last Tuesday.

Had he played a stronger team in the original fixture at New Meadow, then it might not have been an issue. He played the reserves in both games.

All managers should be free to select the team that best represents the interests of their club. But there is a subtext here. What the very top clubs want is to scrap cup replays. They wouldn’t mind jettisoning the League cup too.

Don’t be surprised if it happens too. They tend to get their own way.

It isn’t new. In the 1999-2000 season, the entire FA Cup was moved forward a month to accommodate teams in the Champions League.

Manchester United weren’t even in the FA Cup that season. They withdrew to take part in the World Club Championship – a competition that no one has ever really cared about.

This meant that the whole of the FA Cup, third round tradition and all, were inconvenienced for the benefit of one club, Chelsea, who were England’s only other remaining team in the Champions League.

However, in 2014, had Sunderland not lost to Hull City in the FA Cup sixth round they would have been forced to play four Premier League games in a week to deal with a REAL backlog.

No discussion. No compromise. Had they beaten Hull, the probable side-effect would have been four-in-a-week and probable relegation.

If a top four club was forced to play four Premier League games is a week, would we ever hear the last of it?

Unsurprisingly, in 2020 managers of Manchesters City and United backed Klopp as he threw his wobbler.

The opinions of other mega-rich clubs are entirely valid. What is interesting is that no one seems bothered about the opinions of “the likes of” Shrewsbury on the matter.

As for supporters of neither Liverpool nor Shrewsbury, are they expected to take a side on this?

I have nothing against the idea of Liverpool doing well in European competition. But is that more important than the financial wellbeing of a club like Shrewsbury, formed in 1886? Cup replays can mean the difference between existing and not.

Shrewsbury are in decent financial nick. But the future is never certain and, when football lost Scarborough, Maidstone, Aldershot, Halifax, Rushden, Chester and others, the game was much the poorer for it.

I rather enjoyed Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League win. However, it isn’t more important than the very existence of smaller clubs.

Let’s keep the replays.