Stoke boss Tony Pulis fears the Football Association is in danger of killing the world’s greatest cup competition if they continue to tinker with it too much.
At present there is talk of scrapping replays and the introduction of seedings, potentially for the 2012-13 season onwards, both ideas Stoke chairman Peter Coates this week voiced his opposition to.
Coates is firmly supported by Pulis, who has also expressed his own displeasure at the way the fixtures have been spread this season as witnessed this weekend with fourth-round replays among fifth-round ties.
Throw in the fact the final itself this year is on the penultimate Saturday of the season, kicking off at 5.30pm following a host of Premier League games, and Pulis is far from happy.
The latter is likely a one-off given the Champions League final is at Wembley this year, with UEFA rules stating no match can be played at a final venue over the two preceding weeks.
Pulis, whose side take on npower League One leaders Brighton at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow in a fifth-round clash, believes the way the FA Cup has gone this season, and could go in the future, is all part of further pandering to the needs of the big clubs.
“Everything is going towards what the big clubs want. They are dictating the way football is run in England, and we have to accept that,” said Pulis.
“The national teams are taking up more room to play games, and then you’ve the Premier League, and the Premier League will look after the Premier League. All part of the food chain.
“But we should keep the luck of the draw otherwise you might not get fixtures like we have this weekend, with Brighton coming to us, and in particular Crawley at Manchester United.
“Crawley supporters could wait a lifetime for something like this to happen again, so I don’t think it’s something we should take away from those football clubs.
“But I understand what’s going on. There are a lot of European games, we’ve international fixtures in March, so the FA have to find room for it somewhere.
“But it’s dropped down in priorities, and they’ll kill it if they mess around with it too much.
“The chairman is more traditional than me, so he will be devastated if they do mess about with it.”
Pulis feels the FA Cup this season has again failed to attract the respect it deserves.
“I’ve not been too happy with the way they’ve done it. I don’t think anybody is,” added Pulis.
“Everybody talks about respecting it, yet they’ve almost pushed it back when you look at the fixtures.
“The fourth round was in a three-game week, and that is not right and proper in my mind.
“They will say they have to look after the top clubs due to the European games they play in.
“Having said that, you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t, so I understand where they’re coming from.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s game, home advantage makes Stoke favourites to progress to the sixth round for the second consecutive year.
Yet against a club Stoke have beaten on the last seven occasions the two sides have met, Pulis has warned his players there can be no thinking it will be an easy afternoon.
“Brighton have done brilliantly this season,” said Pulis.
“Obviously they are the best side in their league at the moment, so we know it will be a really tough game for us.
“There will be no pressure on them. The pressure will be on us, and they can come and show what they can do.
“They’ve scored 52 goals already this season, so they’ve players in the team who have done fantastically well.
“So we will show Brighton the utmost respect, and they deserve it. I want to make that clear.
“If we don’t go at it 100% then we’ll get a kick up the backside and Brighton will end up going through to the quarter-finals of the cup.”
Thomas Sorensen takes over in goal from Asmir Begovic after playing in Stoke’s three previous FA Cup ties this season, whilst the only doubt is Matthew Etherington with a hamstring problem.