Sean Gregan's exclusive column

It seems that Preston North End's FA Cup clash at Sheffield United took something of a back seat to the league in their list of priorities.

Sunday, 28th January 2018, 5:51 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th January 2018, 7:00 pm
Preston North End's Tom Clarke reacts after referee Graham Scott awards for Sheffield United

Two teams from the same division playing in the cup is always a bit of a difficult one for managers and both PNE and United made a number of changes.

It was the home side who edged through at Bramall Lane, leaving North End to concentrate on the league as the old cliché goes.

With how the English game has gone over recent years, with the importance of the Premier League and all the money involved, it is the FA Cup which has suffered.

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That is a shame because the FA Cup is such a proud and traditional competition.

Premier League clubs would rather finish 17th in the league than have a run in the cup.

You still get games like the Newport v Tottenham one on Saturday evening when for a long time an upset was on the cards.

But every year it seems a little bit of magic is eroded away.

What might help the cup is not to have a programme of league games straight after.

There is a full Premier League midweek fixture list while a lot of Championship sides are playing rearranged games in the week.

PNE go to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night and that would have been in the thinking of Alex Neil when he picked the team for the Sheffield United cup tie.

If this had been a clear midweek in the league, it might have encouraged more managers to pick full strength teams in the cup.

North End will be looking to get back to winning ways against Forest, having had a few draws lately in the league.

Forest are under a new manager, having appointed former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka recently.

They had a great win over Wolves the other week but like North End, went out of the club to Championship opposition on Saturday in the shape of Hull City.

An FA Cup tie which grabbed the headlines over the weekend was Liverpool’s defeat to one of my former clubs West Bromwich.

VAR was used for two big incidents – ruling out a goal for Albion and awarding a penalty to Liverpool.

I can’t say I’m a fan of VAR so far, although it is early days of its use in this country.

I’m fine with goalline technology – that’s black and white in that either the ball has crossed the line or it hasn’t.

But with VAR it still comes down to a matter of opinion, in this case another referee sat in a studio.

A problem with it so far is that the supporters inside the ground don’t have a clue what is going on.

All they see is the referee stood with his finger pressed to his ear listening to what the VAR guy is saying.

If we are going to have full transparency, put the replays up on the big screen like they do in other sports.

Are we going to get to the point where players and managers are pushing the referee to refer everything to VAR?