I DON’T know why it has to be either/or. But apparently it does. So all week, Barnsley’s players and manager have been asked which is more important: FA Cup success or Championship survival.
So here’s striker Kayode Odejayi, quoted in yesterday’s Daily Star, in response to the question: Would you rather take the winning goal against Cardiff in the FA Cup semi-final, or five league goals between now and the end of the season?
“I’d take the five league goals,” he said.
And here’s defender Steve Foster – interviewed before suffering the foot injury which looks as if it might keep him out of the semi-final – in the Daily Mirror.
“A fan told me he’d take getting relegated if we won the FA Cup – but I know I wouldn’t,” he said.
“The Championship is a great league to play in and I want to play at as high a level as possible. That means staying in this division is a priority.”
Amid all of this, nobody has yet satisfactorily explained why Barnsley can’t win the FA Cup and stay in the Championship. (And judging by some of Barnsley’s league performances since Christmas, no one seems to have explained it to the players, either.)
I blame Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ever since the Manchester United manager started picking his fringe players for League Cup matches around 1994, the notion of prioritising has grown in English football.
Until then, concentrating on the league was just a glib phrase trotted out by managers to excuse a lame cup exit. Now we have a situation where Reading play their reserves in the FA Cup to leave their first-teamers fresh for the challenge of finishing 13th in the Premier League.
It is worrying, though, when the players in a side lying 21st in the Championship even consider that a relegation scramble might be more significant than their best cup run in 96 years. Whatever happened to your sense of adventure? Get out there and make history, Barnsley.
Of course, it could just be that the idea of concentrating on the league has become so ingrained in English football, that Odejayi and Foster came out with those statements because they thought it was the right thing to say.
And to be fair to Odejayi, he was silent when asked if he would take five league goals over the winner in the final.
Still, thanks goodness for Barnsley manager Simon Davey, quoted in the Sheffield Star, who at least showed a little appreciation of the FA Cup. But even he got sucked into the “either/or” trap.
“I’m going to enjoy the cup,” Davey said. “We are going to forget the league.”
Crikey, can’t anyone multi-task in South Yorkshire?