Ipswich Town FA Cup hero and fellow Blues’ legends on the competition’s decline

SPORT
Ipswich Town footballers Mick Mills and Roger Osborne with the FA Cup on Ipswich Cornhill i

SPORT Ipswich Town footballers Mick Mills and Roger Osborne with the FA Cup on Ipswich Cornhill in April 1978 NEG 61922 - 7 ES 4/4/08 - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town’s FA Cup-winning hero Roger Osborne believes the competition has ‘lost a bit of its sparkle’, as Blues fans reflect on another early exit from the competition.

Town lost their Third Round replay, 2-1, at the hands of League Two Portsmouth, having been fortunate to scrape a 2-2 draw at Portman Road earlier this month.

Manager Mick McCarthy fielded an under-strength team at Fratton Park and made no apologies for doing so, with promotion, understandably, his main aim.

Speaking in today’s EADT, along with fellow Town Cup heroes George Burley and Kevin Beattie, Osborne said he understands McCarthy’s stance, but is disappointed that a competition Town proudly won in 1978 has become little more than a distraction to many of the Football League’s 92 teams.

Osborne, who scored the only goal of the game as Town beat Arsenal in the 1978 final, said: “It’s a very difficult thing to talk about without being accused of being short-sighted, but one of the theories is that by entering the FA Cup, you harm your chances of promotion or winning something. Sometimes I find that quite incredible.


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“It’s not just the top teams that are doing this. You have the teams that are looking to get out of the second tier doing it, while Portsmouth didn’t play a full-strength side at Ipswich.”

He added: “For me it’s (FA Cup) lost a bit of it’s sparkle.”

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Town have not reached the fourth round since 2010, but that will be forgotten should they reach the top flight in May, with over £100m on offer.

“I don’t think you can get it (sparkle) back, given the money that the Premier League offers,” he added.

“You are not going to be able to offer anywhere near the same prize money for winning the FA Cup as you do getting in the Premier League or Europe.”

No one would be more delighted than Roger Osborne if Ipswich Town were to get promoted at the end of the season.

Osborne scored the only goal of the game in 1978 as the Blues famously toppled Arsenal to win their one and only FA Cup.

Three years later Town went on to win the UEFA Cup but since then, the club’s supporters have had to endure a mixture of highs and lows, the Blues flirting between the top two tiers of English football.

That fact is a grim one for Osborne, who was disappointed to see Ipswich exit the Cup, fielding a team of fringe and academy players against a side that play in League Two on Tuesday.

“It’s such a long time ago now since the Cup final win and I have sons in their mid-thirties who have never seen a great Ipswich football team, which is disappointing,” said Osborne.

“From a personal point-of-view it was marvellous for myself and I still do have to pinch myself at times, but it’s a shame it’s so long ago now.”

Town boss Mick McCarthy was criticised by some fans for his team selection at Fratton Park, while many others backed his decision, given his ultimate ambition is to reach the Premier League.

But Osborne said: “When Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time, I think Frank Lampard played something like 60 games. Why? Because he was one of the club’s best players. I don’t subscribe to all this rubbish about resting players.

“When we used to come into heavy fixture congestion we reduced our training. Liverpool would do the same, they wouldn’t train as much, but they still managed to win things and the best players used to play irrespective.”

Town’s defeat on Tuesday means the Blues have not reached the fourth round since 2010, but that record will be forgotten should they reach the top flight in May, with over £100m on offer to the winners of the play-offs

“The Cup has maintained its magic lower down the scale, but for me it’s lost a bit of it’s sparkle,” Osborne added.

“I don’t think you can get it (sparkle) back, given the money that the Premier League offers.

“You are not going to be able to offer anywhere near the same prize money for winning the FA Cup as you do getting in the Premier League or Europe.

“Is it going to get to the stage again where a team pulls out of the FA Cup, or only enters the competition to keep their fringe players fit?

“Clubs want support and the fans would hope they would be seeing a strong team playing. At present that is not happening.”

KEVIN BEATTIE

1978 FA Cup winner and England international.

“Winning the FA Cup is an honour, going through all the ties – even the replays – and getting to Wembley. Players love to play there.

“We (Ipswich) never had the biggest of squads but the manager always picked his strongest 11, whether that was in the league, Europe, FA Cup or League Cup. He may have given a couple of squad members a game but he never weakened the side.

“We used to play 60 games a season and the pitches were nowhere near as good as they are now.

“These Ipswich players are fit, young men who get a couple of days off every week. They should be able to stand the rigours of a league and cup season with all the facilities on offer at a big club and with the advancement in medical technology.

“Unfortunately though, you are not going to get the same financial reward winning the FA Cup than for say getting into the Premier League or staying there, or playing in Europe.

“But the FA Cup is so special and something always happens in the competition, look at what it did for David Geddis and Roger Osborne.

“Then there was my old mate Jim Montgomery who pulled off that great double save when Sunderland beat Leeds in 1971.

“It’s a wonderful competition and, apart from the World Cup, there is nothing to rival it.”

GEORGE BURLEY

1978 FA Cup winner and ex-Town manager.

“You have got to look at every situation separately and take a lot of things into consideration.

Mick McCarthy might have had players who felt niggles or were jaded and the (team selection) decision was up to him at the end of the day.

“I understand the fans’ frustrations though, they want to see a cup run and it was disappointing to be knocked out at Portsmouth.

“But that game gave a few of the fringe players and youngsters an opportunity.

“I don’t think youngsters are given enough opportunities these days, so I was pleased he gave them a chance.

“I was given a chance as a 17-year-old because we did not have the biggest of squads.

“A number of lads were brought in the other night and I would have thought the game was the ideal opportunity for them to impress.

“The FA Cup is still very special all over the world, but the reality is that league position and not an FA Cup run will or won’t get you the sack and that’s not good for football.

“Fortunately Town have stability and Mick is doing a great job.

“However, fans are fans and want to see their teams to win, but also to be entertained.”

IAN MARSHALL

Ipswich Town – 1993-96 – and League Cup winner with Leicester.

“As a player you sometimes don’t reach the heights of a Premier League title battle or European football and my mentality was that I always wanted to win a cup.

“I can understand clubs wanting to keep their best squads for the league, but it is a really sad state of affairs and I don’t think the FA Cup will get any better unless there is some sort of cash injection or incentive to get into the Champions’ League.

“Mick has put a good run together and I understand he wants to keep his best squad but there’s no certainty the club will reach the Premier League and that’s the disappointing thing.”

RICHARD WILKINS

Leiston boss and member of Cambridge United side in 1991 that lost at Arsenal in the quarter-finals.

“The magic of the cup in the lower leagues is still there.

“Rightly or wrongly, the opportunity to remain in or reach the Premier League is financially too rewarding.

“One million or whatever it is for winning the FA Cup is pie in the sky compared to staying in Premier League or being promoted, and the Cup has lost its appeal to clubs in Premier League or Championship.

“Money dictates and the Cup’s prize money isn’t going to pay a weeks’ wages. But it does create so many memories.

“We went to Arsenal with Cambridge and we were unlucky to lose to a Tony Adams goal

We were up against Merson, Adams, Bould Seaman, backed by between eight to 10,000 fans and we pushed them all the way, so much so George Graham came into the dressing room after with bottles of champagne for us.

“Are the players really over-played when you have to play Saturday and Tuesday in non-league and there’s as much chance of getting injured in training as in a game?

“Some of my best football memories come from the FA Cup.”

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