Leeds United: I’d always play my strongest side in the FA Cup – Ritchie

Lewis Cook.
Lewis Cook.
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IT IS the FA Cup third-round weekend, one of the big dates in the footballing calendar and personally, I still think that it is the best cup competition in the world, no doubt about it.

From the way that the minnows can get to this third round and further if they are very lucky, it’s terrific.

That said, I know Steve Evans and other managers have spoken about feeling that it has been devalued this season with league games taking place in midweek and I do feel our fixture pile-up doesn’t do anything to enhance our cup competitions and the league.

There will be so many clubs thinking about Tuesday’s games in every league. It should not really be like that; games should be spaced out enough. Hopefully, it will just be the situation with this third round.

It does damage it a little bit, not from a fan’s point of view or devaluing it from a manager’s point of view.

But you do have to have an eye on the major issue of the bread and butter of the league, which is unfortunate.

I do sympathise with managers, although they have always got a balancing act in terms of who they play. I think it is actually more difficult for those who have a bigger squad.

If you haven’t got the squad, you don’t have any issues, you just play your strongest side and it takes that out of it for some managers.

But for the ones who have got a plethora of players, it puts things in managers’ mind and put more onus on them.

Personally, I’d always try and play my strongest side, which is the way I was when managing.

I didn’t have massive squads as a manager, but enough to make just one or two changes. I would always go for it as I loved the FA Cup and always wanted to get as far as I could.

Some sides actually budget for that, I think and some managers will have to play their strongest side in that respect.

I think Steve will also want a bit of payback today after the league game and that might come into it and the Leeds fans will be desperate to put one over Rotherham United and vice-versa with the two managers being at both clubs. It will certainly be interesting.

Leeds have had a few big cup days out in the past three years to remind them of past glories and it is also a bit of a retreat from the league – although that is still there, with Leeds having to think about the game at Ipswich Town on Tuesday.

As for my cup history, I have always been the bridesmaid when it comes to the FA Cup, unfortunately.

With Leeds, we obviously got knocked out of the semi-finals and at Oldham Athletic, we got knocked out of the semi-finals twice. When I was first at Manchester United, we also got beaten in the final against Arsenal way back in 1979 and I was 13th man that day.

I love the cup, but it has not been a great one for me personally.

As a manager, I had a good run with Huddersfield when we beat Birmingham at home who were in the Premier League and then got beaten 3-1 by Chelsea and played really well at Stamford Bridge in the next round.

I have had good times and notable games at least.

For me, it is still the best competition ever and I still love sitting around watching the games, especially in the earlier rounds with the non-league sides playing. I just think it is brilliant.

Obviously, the future of Lewis Cook has come under the microscope already this month, with talk of firm interest from Bournemouth and let’s hope Leeds do keep him and they seem intent on doing that judging by recent comments.

The problem is that when you have good players, they are going to attract attention and Lewis is certainly one of them.

Sam Byram is obviously another, all good players like those two are going to get that interest.

It is whether Leeds can bat it all back throughout this month.

Ultimately money always talks in football and if someone in the Premier League comes in with an offer which is too good to turn down, unfortunately in this day and age, players go.

You wouldn’t want to say Leeds are a selling club. But every player has his price. Taking Bournemouth as an example, they are not as big a club as Leeds in terms of tradition and what has gone on beforehand in terms of history.

But they will have some financial clout and at the moment, that’s the way it is.

In terms of where they are with money and with the cash they have spent, clubs like them are now in the driving seat ahead of bigger clubs in the Championship.

I do like Cook and for me, he is a real talent.

He’s combative too, which I like and he has a great range of passing.

He can also beat people as well and can score a goal.

He has to keep on an upward spiral. But if he went somewhere like Bournemouth, would he get straight into their first team?

That’s another question, isn’t it?

All those players such as Cook and Sam have to think about whether they would go straight into a Premier League team if they did move.

Obviously, Leeds have re-signed Liam Bridcutt on loan from Sunderland for the rest of the season this week and that’s good news.

I have read his comments about Evans being great with him and really enjoying being here and that’s good to hear.

If you are happy, you are going to get the best out of players, that’s important.