Jan 4 (Reuters) - Defenders of the FA Cup’s place in British football culture may claim Aston Villa’s surprise home defeat by League One (third tier) Sheffield United on Saturday was poetic justice.
Villa manager Paul Lambert’s pre-match suggestion that most Premier League managers would sacrifice a Cup run for league points rankled some and Villa fans were smarting after the seven-times winners were bundled out 2-1 in the third round.
”It was bitterly disappointing after a really good win on Wednesday (at bottom side Sunderland in the Premier League),“ Lambert told the club’s website. ”To get knocked out was really frustrating. It hurts.
“Anyone who knows me will tell you I‘m not the happiest person when we lose. We picked a really strong side to try and get through.”
Inevitably, Lambert was asked about his pre-match comments and denied he had devalued the world’s oldest cup competition, which Villa won for the first time in 1887.
“I never demeaned the competition one bit. I respect the history of the competition and what the competition is about,” Lambert said. “If you look at my own career, I have won some nice things through cup competitions.”
“I think (in) the whole context of the interview, there was never any way I was decrying the competition at all,” he added.
”You want to try and do a good run. If you look at the League Cup last time, we picked strong teams throughout the competition. I never take them lightly.
”I said in the same interview that if you’re in something, you try to win it. It’s the same with every game you play.
“The lads are hurting. They have gone from the good feeling of Wednesday to the disappointment of being knocked out.”
Jamie Murphy put Nigel Clough’s United side ahead and, although Nicklas Helenius equalised for Villa, Ryan Flynn sealed a deserved victory for the visitors late on.
“I don’t think we did enough to go through and that is me being honest,” said Lambert. “Good luck to Sheffield United in the next round. We had a lot of the ball and huffed and puffed. It was one of those kind of games.”
Clough, son of former Nottingham Forest manager Brian, had some sympathy for Lambert.
“I don’t think he was disrespecting the FA Cup - he was just stating very honestly what the situation is like in the Premier League at the moment,” he told the BBC.
“It is just a bit sad that the FA Cup, such a wonderful competition, takes a back seat but that is the reality of it.” (Writing by Martyn Herman in London, Editing by Ken Ferris)