Alan Smith: I’d be tempted to end FA Cup replays as part of cuts to protect stars from injury

Alan Smith
Martin Rickett/PA Wire

The protests grow stronger year upon year as more and more managers pile in to complain about the hectic fixture schedule.

This time, their ­argument gained gravitas when Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola jumped in with both feet. The two biggest managers around came up with suggestions to try to protect ­players suffering from burnout, players picking up injuries due to chronic fatigue.

Klopp suggested the scrapping of FA Cup replays and always giving the ­lower-ranked team the home draw. Guardiola went even further, by advocating the abolishment of the League Cup, arguing that no other major footballing nation in Europe has two domestic cup competitions.

Cue loud gasps all round. Get rid of the League Cup? A competition that has been around forever and forms part of ­England’s football fabric? Well, yes, it is a radical suggestion but it is also the kind that needs careful consideration when players are falling like flies ­following the crazy schedule.

Harry Kane and ­Marcus Rashford top a very long list of those now on the sidelines after picking up injuries that could probably have been avoided with a lighter workload.

Harry Kane is not expected to return to training until April (AFP via Getty Images)

And yes, I can hear the cries from here. ‘Tired? I’d play every day on a hundred grand a week! Spoilt prima donnas!’ But, of course, it doesn’t quite work like that. No matter how bloated the bank balance, the body gives way when constantly subjected to the high intensity stuff prevalent nowadays.

It cannot be compared with my ­playing era in the ­Eighties and Nineties, when the game had not yet seen rafts of sports scientists looking for ways to get quicker and stronger. As a result, today’s elite ­athletes are covering more ground and doing it faster, which is bound to have an effect sooner or later.

So, what is the answer? Where do we make cuts to protect the clubs’ precious assets?

Like Klopp, I would be tempted to end FA Cup replays. Granted, these give smaller clubs the chance to earn a small fortune by playing in front of a sizeable crowd. Such windfalls can keep a ­struggling club in business.

Yet, there has got to be another way of spreading the wealth than persisting with ties that do more harm than good from a physical standpoint. As for ­scrapping the League Cup, that is simply not going to happen in the immediate future.

Perhaps managers should use it as a run-out for emerging talent, as Liverpool did this season when the first team were busy with the Club World Cup.

One thing seems clear — we are approaching breaking point, when ­managers simply won’t accept the ­status quo.

Read more

Man United 1-0 Wolves: Rashford injury takes gloss off FA Cup win