Is Football Right to Ditch 133 Years of Tradition?

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Byline: MICHAEL HART;RAOUL SIMONS

ROBBING the FA Cup Final of the pomp and ceremony of the most famous Saturday afternoon in the annual football calendar is a sacrilege that would again demonstrate the shallow thinking of the game's masters in Soho Square.

Do we really want club football's showpiece staged under floodlights on a Wednesday evening? Does it matter what we want?

I suspect not. Just as the FA abandoned final replays and decided that Manchester United needn't bother defending the trophy in 2000, they now propose to diminish further this most hallowed occasion.

The reason for this is to help England win the World Cup in 2006. Noble enough reason and Sven-Goran Eriksson believes that, if we are to have any real hope, a four-week break for the players is essential.

His belief is based on the view that the players are overworked and in need of rest and recuperation before representing the nation at the World Cup in Germany.

This, of course, is another of those myths that have taken root as foreign coaches have wielded more and more influence.

Ask Alan Curbishley if his men are overworked. The most anyone at Charlton has played this season is 29 first-team games.

Ah! But that's not Arsenal you say. But Arsenal's England men have been no busier -- Ashley Cole (29) and Sol Campbell (19).

The busiest England player has been Chelsea's John Terry with 35 games.

Compare that with Liverpool in 1983-84 when players such as Phil Neal, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush, Sammy Lee and Mark Lawrenson who by season's end all played nearly 70 games, which wasn't that unusual.

Today the big clubs have twice as many men, playing half the number of games. No wonder they have the energy to go on as lucrative club tours and, as with England this summer, go on a meaningless trip to the United States.

Do we want to abandon the traditional afternoon FA Cup Final - which has been on a Saturday since March 1872 - for these reasons? I think not. Better, surely, to cut club tours and start the season a week earlier. …