Martin Smith column: Why the FA Cup will continue to be an inspiration

FA Cup third round, who cares?

Young defender Osaze Urhoghide. Pic Steve Ellis
Young defender Osaze Urhoghide. Pic Steve Ellis

Osaze Urhoghide cares.

For some fans and players the third round has become a bit of a chore.

But not 19-year-old Owls debutant Osaze.

His man-of-the-match interview after Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Premier league Brighton told the story of a likeable young man grateful for a chance to put self-doubt and disappointment behind him.

While ever there are young men like Osaze - and there always will be - sport, football and the FA Cup will continue to be an inspiration.

But there are issues with the FA Cup, Premier League primacy being the biggest.

English football’s top division is feted around the world, billions watch it weekly, TV cash makes the mediocre into millionaires, blurs distinction between price and value.

Our manic Christmas programmes mean managers need to rest players and not just at Premier League level.

It’s no good fans complaining that top footballers get paid ridiculous money to play over Christmas and New Year.

No amount of money can instantly put energy back into temporarily knackered legs.

If fans want consistently high standards something has to give after four games in 12 days.

Usually it’s the FA Cup.

Once third round day was one of the biggest in football.

Not so long ago the FA Cup would have been chance for most teams to grab some short-term glory, a few thousand quid and the spotlight.

Now Sheffield United have all that every week and Premier League success is everything.

Chris Wilder made 11 changes to the team he was critical of after defeat at Anfield, fair enough.

But a coned-off Kop and an attendance of 11,133 - even against non-league Fylde - only tell part of the story.

*’Wasteful England collapse again’ - ran the BBC’s headline after day one of the second test against South Africa.

Not so wasteful on Monday.

Dom Sibley’s marathon maiden ton and Ben Stokes’ brutal 72 made a mockery of the weekend’s dire predictions and put England in position to level the series.

The best thing about winter cricket tours is that time, season and distance mean we can ignore bad days and revel in the good ones without it taking over our lives.

Spectator sport used to be more like that.

A voluntary, occasional commitment, a take-it-or-leave-it pleasure rather than a life-defining commitment.

A bit like the third round of the FA Cup is today.