Birmingham City manager Carla Ward has called the three-day turnaround between her side’s FA Cup quarter-final and semi-final “ridiculous” and “an injustice to the competition”.
Last season’s FA Cup had been on hold since February, when lockdown stopped play. In order to complete the competition the quarter-final and semi-final rounds are being played in quick succession over five days this week, ahead of the Wembley final on November 1.
Ward’s side and their last-four opponents Everton have invariably drawn the short straw, though, in being forced to play tonight just three days on from their quarter-finals last Sunday. By comparison, Manchester City and Arsenal – who play in the second semi-final on Thursday – have been allowed five days between their respective fixtures.
While Everton manager Willie Kirk was not as concerned by the scheduling, underdogs City have the added difficulty of recovering from playing a 120-minute, quarter-final thriller against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday afternoon, which culminated in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Ward said the decision to have them play on Wednesday, rather than Thursday, was incomprehensible.
“I’m not going to lie, if you want one word, it’s ridiculous.” Ward said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Whoever made that decision? Honestly, I cannot get my head around how anyone thinks it would be the right decision to play a quarter-final of the FA Cup, probably the most prestigious competition in football, and then play three days later in the semi-finals. It’s an injustice to the competition, because actually these players have gone out and given 120 minutes and we’ve got to pull them in on their day off [on Monday] to try and give us every chance.”