Aston Villa manager Dean Smith before their FA Cup match against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters

BIRMINGHAM – The FA Cup has lost its shine, according to Aston Villa manager Dean Smith.

On a day when teams made an average of almost six player changes to their line-ups for the third round and attendances were down by 30 per cent, Smith pointed a finger at football authorities for making alterations which have damaged the competition.

There were 223 changes to the 40 teams playing in Saturday’s matches, with eight clubs making nine or more. Four teams made 10 or more changes.

Smith, who made nine changes, did not even take some of his best players to Craven Cottage, where they were beaten 2-1 by Fulham.

They have a Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg against Leicester on Wednesday but are also fourth-bottom of the Premier League, having seen three players suffer serious injuries recently. He said: ‘I think it has lost its sparkle. It does not help when the final kicks off at 5.30pm and one final was on the same day as a programme of Premier League fixtures (in 2011).

‘It was not on top of our priorities which is because of what has happened over the last week or so, and the games we’ve had, which is unfortunate.’

Only 12,980 fans watched Fulham beat Villa, some 6,000 below a capacity restricted by rebuilding.

Fulham boss Scott Parker said: ‘The FA Cup was something which I was brought up on. Over the last few years it has probably been diluted a bit, but for me it still holds massive heritage and prestige.’

Daily Mail