BLACKPOOL chairman Karl Oyston by-passed the third round FA Cup tie against Fleetwood, preferring to go shooting instead and giving his tickets away, so missing the Seasiders’ 5-1 win.
Whether he bagged anything on his expedition is not known, but he laid himself open to the accusation of shooting himself in the foot over his non-appearance, when you consider Pool’s proud cup tradition, the fact they won the most famous FA Cup final of all time in 1953, and the significance of such a landmark local occasion.
Whether it was indifference on Oyston’s part or just being plain contrary, it was a big mistake.
In another small – yet significant – way, it all adds to the devaluing of the FA Cup by directors and, even more sadly, managers fielding weakened teams.
Oyston’s puzzling attitude towards the FA Cup contrasts totally with that of those two poor Oldham fans who suffered hypothermia while queueing for precious tickets for the cup tie with Liverpool.
Anyone who has had the misfortune to confront the cold at Boundary Park from 3pm to 5pm on a Saturday afternoon will have the utmost sympathy for those people braving the elements at the unearthly hour of 4am to ensure their places.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Oyston’s controversial decision, the FA Cup will be firmly in the spotlight at the end of the month – but not necessarily for the right reasons.
That is because of two potentially explosive and sensitive fourth-round ties, Manchester United taking on Liverpool at Anfield, as well as the possibility of QPR facing Chelsea.
Of course, relations between United and Liverpool are tense in the extreme as a result of Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra affair, and it’s fair to say they could hardly be worse.
It is a powder-keg situation, inflamed by the appalling way Liverpool have handled the entire business before and after Suarez was handed an eight-match ban for racist remarks to Evra.
Liverpool’s grudging acceptance of the punishment has done them little credit.
The fact Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish sanctioned the wearing of the ‘Suarez Seven’ shirts (left) was a serious error of judgment.
The Liverpool v United match-up is one fixture that the FA wanted to avoid at all costs – let alone the police and those with the onerous job of stewarding the games.
If ever two teams sorely needed a cooling-off period, then here is a classic example.
There is never any love lost between the two sets of fans at the best of times, but there is a potential for a deep pit of hate and resentment.
Now should be a time for rapprochement and moving on, and it remains to be seen if both clubs have the leadership needed to address the resentment and disquiet.
The alleged racist remark made to Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi at Anfield last Friday – for which a man from Aintree has been arrested – has only served to exacerbate an already volatile, and depressing, situation.
Peace moves should be made as a matter of priority.
Perhaps it is asking too much for Evra and Suarez to shake hands and ‘make up’ in front of the cameras.
So sensitive a subject is it that neither man could be forced into it, though the likelihood of that taking place must be considered remote.
It is certain the heads of police will speak to both clubs prior to the tie, reminding them of their responsibilities
For the sake of sanity – and public order – there needs to be reason and calm. Certainly, if it gets any worse, we could have a situation where a Premier League meeting between the two clubs on February 11 at Old Trafford could even be played behind closed doors.
Meantime, if QPR beat MK Dons in a third-round replay, we have the prospect of John Terry going back to Loftus Road – just days before his trial on allegations of racial abuse against Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand.
Maybe in both matches, there could be a strong, compelling case for strategic withdrawals.
It would be a case of damage limitation if Suarez, Evra, Terry and Ferdinand were pulled from the ties.
Unlike the Blackpool chairman’s absence from Highbury last Saturday, that would be entirely understandable.