The FA Cup is the oldest and arguably most famous club competition in world football, but how does it compare to domestic cup competitions in Europe?
Yeovil’s Czech stopper Marek Stech, who grew up and began his career in the Czech Reublic, compares the two cup competitions ahead of the Glovers’ FA Cup Third Round clash with Leyton Orient on Saturday.
Whilst league success remains the priority for football clubs across the land the FA Cup winners will collect a cool £1.8m in prize money as well as qualifying for European competition, something Stech highlights as a major difference.
“It’s a bit different because over here you have the FA Cup and Carling Cup whereas in the Czech Republic you only have the Czech Cup and the league so they take it a bit differently back home – most teams focus on the league because there are two or three places for Champions League qualification, so that’s the priority.
“The Czech Cup is the same as the FA Cup in that you have teams from the Conference and lower leagues so it is interesting when a team from the third league in the Czech Republic goes to the final.
“It’s not taken as seriously as over here though where it’s massive for all of the fans; to win it would be unbelievable and you qualify for the Europa League, so it’s better and more serious,” said the 23-year-old.
Giant killings, a major part of Yeovil’s history, are a frequent occurrence in the FA Cup with the Glovers famously beating Sunderland in 1949 and Premier League outfits succumbing to lower league opposition on a frequent basis.
Despite similar ‘cupsets’ occurring in the Czech Cup, Stech believes the differing quality of the two football pyramids makes a difference.
He said: “Underdogs winning happens back home but not as much as it does over here because you can’t compare the Czech league to the Premier League and all the other leagues over here.
“In the Czech Republic if you’re Sparta Prague – who I used to play for – you can get lower league teams which is similar to Oldham v Liverpool for example so you can get those ties but they’re not as interesting.”
The Glovers come into the match following three straight defeats in the SkyBet Championship, but former West Ham United keeper Stech believes league form is discounted coming into FA Cup fixtures.
“It’s a different competition so it’s not the same as the league. Obviously you prepare the same but it has got a different feeling because you can achieve something – even with the JPT last season we almost got to Wembley so it’s a different feeling. The FA Cup is massive so we would like to get to the next round.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re on top or at the bottom, it’s not about points. You want to get to the next round and you can always get a bigger team which could be televised and people could say ‘look at Yeovil doing well in the cup’ so it’s very interesting for us as players and for the club too.”
However, a carefree attitude can’t be wholly adopted: “You don’t have to worry too much but if you don’t worry at all you won’t make it to the next round. You have to prepare right to go through and I know I said it’s not about points and you don’t have to worry but you want to get through to the next round.”
Despite arriving in English football in 2006 Stech is still without a win in the FA Cup, but hopes tomorrow’s clash with The O’s will bring a first win and a mouth-watering Fourth Round tie.
“It would be great to beat Leyton Orient and get through to the next round and get a massive Premier League club which would be a massive experience for all the lads and the club as well.
“I have played three or four games in the FA Cup and I don’t think I’ve ever got through to the next round! Last season we played against Preston North End and lost and then when I was at West Ham I played a few times and I think lost there too so it would be nice to get to the next round obviously.
“It would be nice to get any Premier League club away from home in the big stadiums. For us as players it’s exciting because if you go through to the next round you can test yourself against better teams so hopefully we do well.”
The Glovers entertain Leyton Orient at Huish Park tomorrow in the FA Cup Third Round with tickets available on the day for the 3pm kick off.