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The Ghost Of 3rd Rounds Past

The start of January is supposed to be a time for looking forward and making changes in your life. In reality, most people’s resolutions fade away by January 7th, so it seems right to me that this year 7th January is FA Cup 3rd round day, because now all it reminds me is of a New Years resolution gone wrong. It reminds me of the person who has promised to lose weight tucking in to their first lump of chocolate. Of the person who has promised to get fit giving up on their run because, “It’s a bit nippy out there tonight”. Of the person who is determined to have their bright ideas heard at work this year, slowly and silently slinking back in their chair as an idiot with a loud mouth takes control yet again. The FA Cup 3rd round is nothing but a broken promise now. It’s hyped up on TV and radio, but it’s not the same anymore. Just wait until Wigan and Bolton send out their reserves if you don’t believe it.

Throughout my childhood it was my favourite day of the season, it almost made going back to school worthwhile, because once you were back at school 3rd round day was nearly here. The excitement started on Football Focus. It was, in those days, usually the only chance you got to see places like Vale Park, Prenton Park and The Recreation Ground on TV. It was the only chance you got to see what the players and managers actually looked like, and more importantly, what kind of a pudding of a pitch the top division players were going to have to cope with. It was also the time when you found out which game Tony Gubba was commentating on, as that was guaranteed to be a shock. You also knew that it would be a genuine shock. The First Division clubs would be putting out strong teams and not saving players for the next league game.

This weekend I expect Swindon to beat Wigan’s youth and reserve players, and Charlton to roll the players masquerading as Fulham’s 1st XI. Swindon fans won’t care one bit, and beating a Premier League side (whoever it might contain) can only help their promotion push, but I suspect that the Wigan fans won’t care either. Particularly if the rest helps them get something against Manchester City in their next league match. That is precisely why the FA Cup has lost it’s magic, it is because the smaller Premiership clubs, the clubs who the Cup offers their only chance of success to, don’t care at all. Look at the Arsenal fans behind the goal when Steve Watkin sent them crashing out. The Coventry fans when Matthew Hanlon smashed one past Oggy and the West Brom fans as Tim Buzaglo completed his hat trick. They cared. They hurt. That’s why we remember these games.

It has ruined the cup completely and I long for the days where Plymouth v Watford, Coventry v Leeds and Wimbledon v Luton Town were semi finals. The equivalent now would be Notts County v Fulham, Wolves v  Burnley and Blackburn v QPR. Out of those 6 teams, I’d fancy Notts County and Burnley. The other 4 teams will be trying their best to get knocked out to ensure their millions.

Dave Rogers @NoLeftFoot

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