FORMER Cherries star Steve Fletcher – whose late grandfather won the FA Cup – says he is saddened to see the famous competition being devalued.
Jack Howe’s treasured medal from 1946 takes pride of place in the Fletcher family home in Hartlepool, the left-back helping Derby to a 4-1 win over Charlton at Wembley, a final also remembered for the ball bursting.
The FA Cup hit the headlines earlier this month when Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert said he felt it was an inconvenience to some Premier League managers, with Newcastle’s Alan Pardew sympathising with his counterpart.
Fletcher, a boyhood Liverpool supporter, will be hoping Cherries can overcome Burton Albion to set up a fourth round meeting with the Merseyside giants later this month.
The 41-year-old told the Daily Echo: “As a kid growing up supporting Liverpool in the 80s, winning the FA Cup was almost as big as winning the league title. The final was the biggest day in the sporting calendar and you would sit all day in front of the telly watching the coverage.
“Slowly but surely, and with all the money coming into the game, the competition has diminished. The priority now in every division seems to be with staying up and, the higher you go, the less important the FA Cup seems to become.
“It is sad that the greatest domestic cup competition in the world has been devalued and is nowhere near as important as it once was. I realise jobs are on the line and the vast riches in the game dictate that survival is the main aim for most clubs, especially in the top flight.
“I think the passion is still there with the supporters and, if you were to ask every player, particularly the English ones, I think they would say it means a lot to them.”
Fletcher, who works on the scouting staff and in an ambassadorial role at Dean Court, added: “To be honest, I don’t know what the answer is. Some managers say it gets in the way of the league and I understand nobody wants to be playing 55 to 60 games a season.
“There are pros and cons for both sides of the argument and Wigan are a prime example. They won the cup last season and were relegated and I am sure there were mixed feelings about that.
“I just hate to see it devalued because some of my best memories as a player were in the FA Cup. I went to Derby recently and there is a photo in the main reception of my granddad walking round Wembley holding aloft the captain with the cup. Seeing that filled me with pride.”