Why the FA Cup will always have a special place in Sheffield Wednesday boss Garry Monk's heart

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Garry Monk, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, says the FA Cup will always have a special place in his heart amid controversy surrounding clubs fielding ‘perceived’ weakened teams.

Monk made his comments as he prepares to lock horns with Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City superstars in the fifth round at Hillsborough on Wednesday evening.

It will be a special night for the 40-year-old Wednesday boss who described the competition as ‘massive’ and revealed how his first memory of football was watching the FA Cup final as a child.

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But in recent times there has been criticism levelled at Premier League clubs for fielding so-called weakened sides – while the current round of matches are being played in midweek for the first time in the competition’s history.

Only last month Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was accused of devaluing the cup’s long history when he opted against managing his side’s fourth round replay against Shrewsbury Town to be with his first-team squad during their winter break in Dubai.

Instead, the Premier League leaders were led by under-23 boss Neil Critchley, appointed Blackpool manager on Monday, as they fielded a team packed with youngsters in the eventual 1-0 win over the League One outfit.

But Monk says it is unfair to blame managers for selecting ‘weakened’ teams in the FA Cup, especially during an era when clubs are playing so many league games.

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“My first memory of football was the FA Cup, so it’s massive,” said Monk.

Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate their FA Cup win at Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round of the competition last month. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate their FA Cup win at Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round of the competition last month. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate their FA Cup win at Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round of the competition last month. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images) | 2020 Getty Images

“It’s a massive tradition, it’s a massive club. I know there’s been bits about clubs which play perceived weakened sides and devaluing the FA Cup, but when you come into management I understand how difficult it can be sometimes to select a team with so many games – especially in the Championship where you’re playing so many games.

“It’s not about devaluing it at all. Everyone cherishes the FA Cup.”

Monk says his first recollection of watching a football match was the 1987 FA Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Coventry City as an eight-year-old schoolboy.

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“Growing up with the FA Cup, do you want to do well in it? Of course you do, it’s a fantastic competition and everybody loves it,” said the Owls boss.

“It’s been a part of the heritage of this country for a long, long time. There’ll never be any disrespect towards that and hopefully we can do well tomorrow and if there’s a chance, and we know it's only a very small chance, but if there is a chance we’ll try our very best to take that.”