‘Unbelievable Jeff. Despite having two players missing because they had to do a milkround, their goalkeeper missing because he was singing at a wedding and their manager leaving at half-time because his shift in Nando’s started at 4pm, Spartak Scratby of the Claire’s Accessories Premier League Norfolk Eastern Division have dumped Premier League opposition out of the FA Cup …
Still though, with a relegation fight looming it’s probably no surprise that a cup run wasn’t on the Premier League team’s agenda’
Clearly the above hasn’t happened – it’ll a few years before Spartak Scratby get the financial resources to rise out of the 83th tier of the English league system and embark on long run in the FA Cup – but the notion that Premier League teams involved in the middle of the relegation mud-wrestle would rather get knocked out of the cup early and be spared a few games in a competition they almost certainly won’t win is a theory that will no doubt get floated should their scalps be removed at the first hurdle this weekend.
But is it actually true? There’s a certain logic to it. With limited resources, it makes sense that a club would want to focus their efforts into staying in the top flight and milking the ever-expanding udders of the Premier League cash cow.
Taking the teams most involved in the relegation scrap (the bottom six teams plus anyone level on points with them), we’ve looked back over the last 10 years of FA Cup Third Round action to see if the ‘get dumped out as early as possible’ theory holds any water.
The short answer is ‘what utter bollocks’. The longer and slightly less conclusive version is ‘yeah but, they do regularly make it harder than it should be’.
The bottom line is that in the last 10 years, teams in the bottom six of the Premier League progress to the Fourth Round nearly 70% of the time (69.6% – 32 times from 46 ties). We’ve excluded games in which they’ve played Premier League teams because it’s conceivable they’d lose those games even if they craved an FA Cup more than Cristiano Ronaldo craves a mirror. That leaves about 30% of the time when they go out – almost one in three, but still somewhat short of the mass lemming jump that is sometimes suggested by lazy retrofitted logic.
But it’s rarely that straightforward. Underneath that seemingly comprehensive win 70% rate there lurks a rather large caveat. Although the Premier League teams from the bottom six have gone through in the majority of cases, it has often required a replay and some jittery final moments as a man who normally grills paninis in Little Chef throws his head at a last second hoof into the box.
Over the last 10 years, the bottom six teams in the Premier League have been held to draws 14 times when facing lower league opposition in the Third Round of the cup. Combined with 11 defeats, it means they don’t progress at the first time of asking 54% of the time. For the most part, they do go on to get the job done in the replay (78%: 11 of 14 replays), but clearly they don’t make life easy for themselves. Or punters.
The obvious answer would seem to be a look at the Draw No Bet option. At present, the bottom six of the Premier League (including ties) is Chelsea, Norwich, Bournemouth, Swansea, Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Some of those clubs will want a cup run like Harry Redknapp wants a visit from HMRC, but others need to avoid a shock exit and the sense that the sky is falling in on their pampered heads. The bottom line is evidence to support an obvious FA Cup hara-kiri is thin on the ground.
It puts a different light on this weekend’s games. We’ll blindly ignore teams from the bottom six playing other Premier League teams. Newcastle (v Watford), Norwich (v Man City) and Sunderland (v Arsenal) could all lose their ties without a cup exit being a managerial masterstroke. Despite what Big Sam will probably claim.
Villa’s trip to Wycombe looks tricky. Well, everything looks tricky for Villa at the moment, but they should still be able to progress. They’re on the Draw No Bet.
Bournemouth are away to Birmingham and that’s a close one to call, even allowing for the high-profile scalps claimed by the Cherries’ this season. Still though, there’s every chance the Brummies will care more about their push for promotion than the chance of a trip to Yeovil at the end of January making on Bournemouth the bet.
After an encouraging display at Old Trafford, Swansea look a solid Draw No Bet option away to Oxford at . Chelsea are to beat Scunthorpe Draw No Bet. Yaaayyyy!
On their own, those odds are about as impressive as Wayne Rooney’s strike rate this season, but if we bundle them up, we get a 19/10 acca. The straight Win-Draw-Win acca pays a much more tempting price of just short of 9/1, but it removes the safety net of Draw No Bet. If you don’t want to add in another selection to qualify for our Acca Insurance, Draw No Bet is a useful way of avoiding your very own cup upset.