It is the middle of May of 1987 and the J2 class of St Peters Primary School are heading north on the M6 motorway back to Preston. The kids on the bus had spent the day having a school trip visiting some local landmark, the kind of day the children looked forward to for months, an escape away from the classroom setting. At the back of the bus the boys, aged 8 and 9, are getting rowdier but none of the discussions centre around the museum they found themselves at earlier. Instead, the topic of conversation is the upcoming FA Cup Final at Wembley. It is the biggest football match of the season and even the pale, skinny kid with glasses has an opinion on it. Tottenham Hotspur are the favourites and no one on this bus is giving their opponents, Coventry City, a chance. Well, no one except me. I think they will win. I am laughed at almost as much as when my dad took me to get my hair cut two years earlier and it was the shortest cut in the school. It took a while for the hair to grow back and the laughing to stop but this time the laughing wouldnt last nearly as long. In less than two days, every one of those boys would be in front of the television on Saturday afternoon watching the great Wembley Stadium set the stage for another team to climb the stairs and lift the famous cup. The year before, the boys had all watched Ian Rush and Liverpool beat Everton in a wonderfully entertaining final. It was a game that would stay with them forever, whether you supported either of the team teams or not. Tottenham versus Coventry turned out to be even better. Spurs led 1-0 and 2-1 but were pegged back twice, sending the game into extra time before the underdogs scored the fifth and final goal, that deflected off Spurs defender Gary Mabbutt and into his own net. The Sky Blues had won the FA Cup and I had won a tremendous amount of respect. There were no cell phones or email. Yet, everyone had watched it and in Monday morning assembly youd have thought I was playing for Coventry that day. Perhaps, I thought, I have a brain for this game. Twelve and a half years later I am on a bus again. This time I am heading south on the M6 motorway. It is November 1999. I am a journalist travelling with tiny football club Bamber Bridge, an amateur club that has reached the second round of the FA Cup for the first time ever. Brig, as they are affectionately known by the 500 or so fans who watch them each week, had started their FA Cup run months earlier and had found their way past the pre rounds, through the first round proper (as it is known) and into the second round, where they have been drawn at Cambridge United, members of the fourth tier of English professional leagues. Bamber Bridge might have been playing FA Cup games since September but the big teams, from Englands top two divisions, wouldnt enter the competition for one more round. Win this game and tiny Bamber Bridge are in the last 64 with the giants of English football. The players bus, where I sit alone close to the front, is full of spirit and the senior players come up one-by-one to tell a story of inspiration. Brigs star striker includes me in his speal, but it is far from positive. Turns out the part-time footballer, full-time postman wasnt too happy with the message I had delivered to my readers about his poor form earlier this season. Now the team was headed to the lofty heights of Abbey Stadium he had chosen his moment to pick on the young writer. The four hour journey turns out to be more entertaining than the match, endless amounts of buses cross paths at junctions and traffic lights, some full of fans, others full of players, all headed in one direction - towards FA Cup glory. Later that day Bamber Bridge lose 1-0 to a penalty that should never have been awarded. The full-time postman misses a sitter. I deliver that message to my readers. Brig havent come close to the second round proper since. Cambridge draw Crystal Palace in the plum third round draw and beat them, marching all the way to the last 16 where their dream would die against Bolton. They have never been near that round since and are no longer good enough to be in the top four leagues of professional football. At least both teams have their FA Cup memories. And that is where the FA Cup is most fondly thought of. Stuck in the minds of people like a special vault, sending them back to a time less complicated, the FA Cup has become a modern day victim battered aside by the influx of the Premier League, satellite television and the breathtaking growth of the European Cup, now named after champions that doesnt feature just champions. Of course, it still delivers special moments each year and it currently resides in Wigan, of all places, after the relegated Premier League side stunned Manchester City last May in the final. I am sure some nine-year-old boy somewhere picked Wigan to win that day and got laughed at. What I am not so sure about, however, is that those who laughed at him watched the game. The streets of England on FA Cup final day used to be full of women shopping. Men and boys were in front of the television. These days the game comes as an inconvenience to some, no longer always placed at the end of the football season when the league campaigns are finished. The fact that it is the traditional closer to this season again is romantic but it has been moved once and will be moved again. It is a competition badly in need of being loved again yet it continues to be cast aside for the bigger, flashier Premier League encounters. The draw for the last 64 used to be another special moment, circled on the calendar for all football fans. When giants could be given minnows or even fellow giants. Yet, this season the draw for the third round of the FA Cup took place when Arsenal were playing Everton in a highly entertaining Premier League match at the Emirates. The eyes of the football world were placed on that game and not even a draw that pitted Arsenal and Tottenham together could overtake Evertons comeback to the main story in newspapers and websites the next day. It was a fitting moment. The FA Cup isnt in the shadows of the league, it is hiding around the corner trembling at the very site of it. And yet when it gets its moment in the sun it has sadly become an awkward distraction from the weekly rolling circus known worldwide as the Barclays Premier League. This season the FA Cups rounds 3 through 5 has been set aside dates on the weekends of January 4-5, January 25-26 and February 18-19. Three weekends that have been kept free completely by the Premier League. Three weekends out of the first seven weeks of 2014 that no Premier League matches will be watched by the billions who tune in worldwide. Not exactly ideal. Three weekends that will see crowds down everywhere as football fans, forced to pay extra money on top of their season ticket price, decide against going to watch FA Cup matches. Last January, eventual winners Wigan Athletic drew 1-1 at home to Bournemouth in round three and just over 8,000 fans showed up to watch the game. An-all Premier League third round game between QPR and West Brom was watched by 8,984 people. Less and less people are caring every year and if it continues along this path it wont be long before it becomes similar to its far poorer off cousin, the league cup, who, despite its name changes for sponsors, remains the same; a competition for the reserves until the real later stages. The FA Cup badly needs an identity change before it is too late. Next week the Premier League embarks on its busiest period. Teams play four games between December 21 and January 1. While leagues in Germany, Spain and Italy take a short winter break, the Premier League marches on, asking their teams to play a moronic schedule that suits nobody. Squads are tested to needless limits with some teams having to play four high intense Premier League games in nine days. A winter break at this time in England should not be implemented, despite statements by Arsene Wenger and others suggesting otherwise. Playing games over the Christmas period is a tradition English football should keep, a tradition that looks after fans actually in the stadiums (a rarity in an era dominated by television revenue) and able to go to games on special days like Boxing Day and New Years Day. No one, however, can argue that the current crowded fixture list is good for the game. Thats why a solution to fix the FA Cup, and save the stress on the Premier League teams, should be implemented. In the four upcoming windows of matches - Dec 21-22, Dec 26, Dec 28-29, Jan 1 - the FA Cup should play rounds 3, 4, 5 and 6. By the end of January 1 they should have their semifinalists. No replays, all games end that day. The draw should be made up so the teams know in advance who they will be playing. Think March Madness style for NCAA Basketball in the United States. A 64 team bracket draw is made and if you win on the first weekend, you instantly know who you will face in the next round and so on and so forth. It is a system that can benefit all. If Wenger and his colleagues want to give key players a winter break, go ahead. More teams will get a break by the very fact that only eight teams, from the original 64, will play four matches during that time. The police will know the schedule and can plan ahead of time (a necessary when planning games) for when a certain team may be at home that day. Crowds will be bigger for FA Cup matches because football fans in England love to go to games at this time of year. Some fans will not get to see their teams play on Boxing Day or New Years Day, if they have been knocked out, but those days will still feature games involving teams from the two lower divisions of English football, who didnt make the 64, if you are craving a game to watch. The Football Association are constantly thinking of ideas to get Premier League fans to spend money to watch their local, smaller clubs and this is another way of achieving that. The Premier League can go back to playing regularly throughout January and February on the weekends it should and would also avoid a conflict later in round six when all Premier League teams are slated to play on the same weekend as the last eight in the FA Cup (March 8-9 this year). That causes the teams fixture congestion down the stretch, something else this plan avoids, sending the last four all the way through to the semi-finals, which can be played in their usual spot of mid-April. Above all, this plan would bring the FA Cup back from the dead. Playing so many games around the country over such a short amount of time will keep everyones focus on the knock-out competition. Many people are in a great mood at this festive season and what better way to reward them than with a festival of FA Cup football, held over a span lasting less than two weeks. It suits the FA, the Premier League and the players. And, of course, nine-year-old experts. Lakers Jerseys China . The 24-year-old Raley was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA for Chicago in his first two career starts after being called up from Iowa on Aug. 7. He was optioned to Iowa on Monday after losing 3-0 to Cincinnati in Chicago on Sunday. Lakers Jerseys 2020 . Canadas 5-1 loss to Finland in the semifinal ranks as the tournaments most-watched game with a record 2.7 million viewers, the largest ever for a World Juniors game played outside of North America, and winning Saturday as the most-watched program on Canadian television. https://www.lakersjerseycheap.com/. The St. Louis Cardinals were scheduled to arrive in Boston in time for a workout on Tuesday afternoon. Much of Mondays discussion focused on Bostons lineup considerations as the series progresses, specifically when the venue shifts to St. Los Angeles Lakers Store . However, Jim Popp isnt sure how long hell be able to admire wide receiver Duron Carter. Los Angeles Lakers Pro Shop . Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, city natives, handled the catering for teammates that begged them for the tasty postgame feast.BARCELONA, Spain - Osasuna and Valladolid were relegated on the final day of the Spanish league season on Sunday and will join the already doomed Real Betis in the second division next season. Osasunas 2-1 win at home over Betis was overshadowed by a railing collapse that left dozens of fans injured, and counted for little when Granada won 1-0 at Valladolid, Getafe beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 and Almeria drew 0-0 with visiting Athletic Bilbao. Play was delayed for more than half an hour at Osasunas Sadar Stadium when a railing collapsed following Oriol Rieras 12th-minute goal, sending fans tumbling forward. The club said that a total of 68 people were hurt and that one man suffered a broken leg. The other three matches with relegation implications were then delayed an extra 35 minutes during halftime to synchronize their estimated finishing times. Before the games to determine relegation were over, the party in the Spanish capital had already begun with Atletico Madrid celebrating its league title with thousands of fans. Osasuna hasnt played in the second division since 2000. Valladolid has spent the last two seasons in the top flight. "In football, when you think you have wrapped it up, you are put in your place," Riera said. "We reacted, but it was too late. We ask our fans for forgiveness and tell them we will do our best to come back up." Osasuna and Valladolid entered the final round in the drop zone, both needing to win their matches and hope the other three teams in danger slipped up. Osasuna did its part by beating Betis from Rieras opener and Carlos Acunas goal in the 14th right after play was restarted. Betis Francisco Chica pulled one back with a long strike in the 70th. But Valladolid self-destructed in a direct matchup with Granada, one of the trio of teams along with Getafe and Almeria still in danger. Valladolid disappointed its fans at Jose Zorilla Stadium with a paltry performance that reached its low point when defender Stefan Mitrovic scored an own goal in the 44th minutte by knocking in Francisco "Piti" Medinas cross.dddddddddddd "We shouldnt have arrived to this week in this situation," Granada coach Lucas Alcaraz said. "We were facing a do-or-die match and my boys were able to handle it." Despite assuring their teams stayed up for another year, both Alcaraz and Rayo coach Paco Jemez said that they would most likely not be continuing with their teams next season. Getafe won at crosstown rival Rayo thanks to Ciprian Maricas brace. The Romanian striker scored from long range in the 43rd and then added a second from the penalty spot in stoppage time after Roberto Trashorras had levelled in the 67th. Almeria needed goalkeeper Esteban Suarez to save Guillermo Fernandezs point-blank try in injury time to ensure a point against Bilbao. Earlier, Europa League champion Sevilla routed Elche 3-1 at home to round off an excellent campaign that saw the team finish fifth. Midfielder Vicente Iborra scored twice in the 16th and 72nd with Jairo Samperio netting in the 61st for Sevilla. Yiadom Boayke scored Elches consolation goal moments before the final whistle. Giovani Dos Santos scored one goal and set up another to help Villarreal win 2-1 at Real Sociedad, overtaking its rival to finish the season in sixth place. Dos Santos raced into the box before cutting back to put the ball on his left foot and curl in the 26th-minute opener. The Mexico forward set up Ikechukwu Uche on the break in the 69th before Carlos Vela pulled one back in stoppage time. Villarreal, which spent last season in the second division, rose above seventh-place Sociedad on head-to-head goal difference. Both teams had already clinched Europa League berths. Atletico won the league title for the first time in 18 years on Saturday after it drew 1-1 at Barcelona. Barcelona needed to win to defend its title but finished second, level on points with Real Madrid. Bilbao had already sealed its fourth-place finish, completing the top four teams heading to the Champions League. ' ' '