Look we’ll be honest, the FA Cup simply doesn’t excite fans like it used to. You could certainly make the argument that everyone, fans included, is to blame in some way. Fixture congestion certainly plays a large role, particularly for bigger clubs who look to prioritize their domestic league or continental competition.
This past weekend would see Liverpool fielding their youngest team ever only to play to a scoreless draw (and replay) against Plymouth Argyle. Arsenal would stumble through to a last-minute victory over Preston North End. And Tottenham would field their B Team against Championship side Aston Villa for as long as they could before bringing on Dele—and ultimately winning 0-2. But no club sets their sights on losing ahead of a cup match (or any other for that matter). Even if their lineup appears to suggest otherwise.
Rotation is crucial during the course of a strenuous season and giving academy players chances against lower-league sides makes sense. Also remember that English soccer doesn’t have a winter break, making rest (whenever possible) all the more important. But if you’re a bigger club, a replay is the last thing you’d want. That’s why it’s imperative to strike a delicate balance between experimentation, rotation, and achieving a positive result. Then afterwards, all you can do is wait for the next draw.
Look, you don’t have to enjoy the FA Cup. That is entirely up to you. But it’s important to realize that for lower-league sides, some of these fixtures mean the world. Sure some of the very small sides (we’re talking below League Two) get weeded out by rounds three and four, but the fun shouldn’t have to stop for everybody just because some folks couldn’t care less.
Which brings me to the focal point of this particular piece: Wycombe Wanderers, and… Adebayo Akinfenwa.
At the moment, Wycombe currently sit in League Two, or the fourth tier of English football. And ever since a last-gap survival during the 2013-14 campaign, have been a very steady side. 2014-15 would see them finish fourth on 84 points, only to lose to Southend on penalties in the ensuing promotion playoff. But after regressing a touch last season (13th on 64 points), the Wanderers are right back at it. Through 24 matches, Wycombe sit fifth—five points off an automatic promotion spot, and three points away from falling out of the playoff altogether.
And now, as we found out Monday afternoon, they’ll get to travel to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham Hotspur. In the final year of WHL, no less. Pretty great, right? But don’t take my word for it, just watch their reaction:
Tottenham away Great draw!!! Lads are buzzing pic.twitter.com/Actx1BCaCL
— Westy (@mylesweston) January 9, 2017
When they do make the trip at the end of the month, a very familiar English face will be present: Adebayo Akinfenwa. So let’s get a few more things out of the way, okay?
For starters, if you’re ever starting a FIFA career with a lower-league English side, your first order of business should be to sign Akinfenwa. Why? Well perhaps the most accurate answer is: I’m a strange guy. But also, it’s genuinely very fun. Oh, and every year including and since EA Sports FIFA 2012, Akinfenwa has had the highest strength rating in the game. In the franchise’s most recent version of the hit game, there are few things more beneficial than having a ridiculously strong center forward.
Wycombe is Akinfenwa’s 13th club since his senior team debut in 2001 (FK Atlantas). And 14th when you include Watford, where he spent time as a youth academy player. Atlantas (Lithuania) and Barry Town (Welsh League) are the only clubs who do not play within the English leagues. Additionally, other than Swansea City—where he called home from 2005 through 2007—no club from his English-heavy past is currently playing in a division higher than League One.
Last season, his penalty would seal promotion for AFC Wimbledon as they ascended to League One for the first time in club history. Then once again, like many seasons before that, Akinfenwa was unemployed. Until Wimbledon came calling, that is. Saying experience matters may very well be cliched, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Saying experience matters a little more in the lower leagues might just be understating it.
Akinfenwa brings plenty of experience, and charisma, wherever he goes. This season it’s Wycombe. Maybe it will be next year, too. Who knows? And for those who keep thinking he’s “too big to play football,” keep thinking that. He’ll just keep playing. Perhaps his scoring record won’t set the pitch ablaze, but the man rarely fails to involve himself. In 27 competitive matches with Wycombe this term, Akinfenwa has tallied eight and provided a further four assists. In 502 competitive career matches to date, he’s had a hand in 216 goals (155 scored, 61 assisted). And, his header in the 82nd minute over the weekend would ultimately knock sixth-tier Stourbridge out of the Cup.
Why should we expect him to stop anytime soon? Also, why should we expect a club like Wycombe Wanderers to shrug off the fourth round of the FA Cup—against Tottenham Hotspur in the final season of White Hart Lane, no less? The answer is simple: we shouldn’t. So for those desperately searching for some cup magic, look no further.