Oxford United manager Karl Robinson renewed calls for FA Cup replays to be scrapped, despite taking Newcastle to a lucrative fourth-round replay, saying his players are at “breaking point”.
The topic has been in the headlines recently with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola saying he would prefer games to be settled on the night.
Five of the 12 FA Cup fourth-round ties on Friday and Saturday went to replays, which could be played during the Premier League’s ‘winter break’ in early February.
However, it is understood the Football Association is committed to working with clubs to maintain a winter break for Premier League teams.
“Are you asking my chairman or me? My chairman wants it [the replay], trust me,” said Robinson. “But I don’t think it [scrapping them] would be a bad thing.
“We’re now going to play nine games in February with a squad of 20 players. We don’t have the funds or resources to do that.
“It would be better for everyone to be finished today. Give us an outcome immediately and not give us a backlog of games in February and going into March.”
League One promotion chasers Oxford have already played 39 games this season going into February – including 13 cup matches.
“At our level we play a stupid amount of games,” Robinson said. “We’re going to hit over 60 games this season, which is ludicrous. My players’ bodies are at breaking point. It’s not fair.
“The big clubs say it’s a problem for them but it’s equally a problem going down the pyramid.”
The FA has changed some rules this year, with the FA Cup fifth round now being played midweek, with extra time and penalties being used instead of replays at that stage.
But there are replays until then, with eight in the third round plus another five so far this weekend. None of the cup competitions in any of Europe’s other top five leagues have replays.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker called for an end to replays during BBC One’s coverage of Brentford v Leicester.
“I don’t see the point of replays anymore, it’s a bygone era. No other country in the world have them. If you have a draw after 90 minutes as a lower-league club, then you almost have a 50-50 chance of getting through in a penalty shootout,” he said.
“Therefore it could be better for a lower-league club, because if you get a replay you might get a few quid but you might not get through, but penalties would give them more chance of getting the glory.”
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce was also unimpressed at the timing of the replay.
One round of Premier League games will be staggered next month – with four games on one weekend and six on the next – with every side getting one week off. But the Magpies’ trip to Oxford could be in the week before their league match, unless an agreement can be reached with the FA to find another date.
“It’s a ridiculous situation,” he said. “You’re supposed to have a week off then all of a sudden they’ve shoved replays in there. What’s the point?”
Other managers are unimpressed too
Tottenham needed a replay to beat Middlesbrough in round three and have another one now, after drawing 1-1 at Southampton.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho told BBC Match of the Day: “We don’t need one more match but we have it so we are going to fix it. It’s better to draw than to be out.”
Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “Because the rules are not the best, we have another game, in a break in the season – I don’t understand this but OK, we have to do it. It’s for us not perfect but we must accept it.”
Reading drew 1-1 with fellow Championship side Cardiff City.
Cardiff City manager Neil Harris told BBC Sport Wales: “Avoiding replays hasn’t gone to plan for us, has it?”
Royals boss Mark Bowen said: “Neil is the same as me in that we didn’t want a replay. A lot of teams throughout the leagues get stretched by replays.”
But the BBC pundits have mixed views
Former Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin said on BBC One: “There has to be a point where the replays stop and I think they should stop a little bit sooner.
“We never used to moan about how many games we used to play – we just got on with it. You wanted to be playing lots of games.”
Former Blackburn and Celtic forward Chris Sutton, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, had an issue with the replays being held in the supposed Premier League break.
“I can understand the frustration but it is what it is,” he said. “The baffling thing in all of this is virtually every other big league in Europe manages a winter break and we somehow can’t. Our season goes on forever. How do they do it and we can’t work it out? Are we stupid?”
One pundit on the other side, though, was Newcastle legend Alan Shearer.
“There is football outside the Premier League. Sometimes clubs need these cup draws and replays to survive.”
Just don’t tell that to Oxford boss Robinson.
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