Rewarded for treating Cup with the respect it deserves
THERE were lots of reasons for Derby County fans to be satisfied on Saturday – not least the 5-0 scoreline – but right up there would have been the fact the club gave the FA Cup the respect it deserved.
They did so by fielding their strongest side available.
The overwhelming majority of clubs in the top two divisions choose not to do this, instead fielding weakened sides to give a breather to their first-choice players.
They often deny having done this – particularly if they come a cropper – claiming all those left out had bumps and bruises (though most seem to make a full recovery in time for the next League outing).
We all know why they do it. The cash lure of the Premier League – whether they are fighting to win it, survive in it or gain a place in it – is so massive that blinkered managers only see the two domestic cups as a hindrance to that.
But ask the fans what they think. They love the FA Cup and the prospect of a trip to Wembley and they feel badly let down every time their club visibly fails to share that ambition.
Rams fans old enough to have been there will recall the utter desolation caused by the 1976 semi-final defeat at the hands of a Manchester United side which started that game as underdogs (yes, really).
It was every bit as great as suffering relegation, particularly as that fate is often anticipated well before the decisive game and supporters have got used to the idea.
Since, in recent seasons, the FA has generally favoured playing semis at Wembley as well, it means Premier League and Championship sides only need four wins to be playing on the hallowed turf.
Millwall got all the way to the final without even having to play a top-flight club in 2004.
So, well done to Nigel Clough and his boys. They've now been rewarded with another home tie against Blackburn Rovers, a side below them in the Championship.