Sweet FA

There are certain weekends that stand out in any football season: the opening set of fixtures, the Easter weekend, Boxing Day, and the last round of matches (all kicking off at the same time) but perhaps the most romantically tinged and most eagerly awaited point on the calendar is FA Cup third round weekend.

Ole Big Ears (the FA Cup, not Gary Lineker) has provided us with drama aplenty over the years and memories of great moments lie deeply embedded in the brains of footy fans throughout the land: That 1953 Matthews Final; Ronnie Radford’s goal for Hereford against Newcastle United in ’72; Arsenal’s dramatic last gasp triumph over Man United in 1979; the Crazy Gang’s win in ’88; Mickey Thomas’ goal for Wrexham against Arsenal in 1992; Ryan Giggs’ semi final gem against the Gunners in 1999; Louis Saha’s quickest ever cup final goal in 2009, and so on it goes. This year’s competition is 100% guaranteed to give us a fresh layering of heroes and villains.

The stand out fixture this weekend is obviously Manchester City v Manchester United. It may seem a tad unfair that one of these behemoths is going to bite the dust so early in the competition but part of the joy of the FA Cup is the sheer randomness of the draw. There are no seeds. Anyone can be drawn to play anyone, and third round weekend is the time when the big boys must pray for that perfect draw, preferably at home, not against another top-flight team and certainly not against non-league opposition.

Such is the fate that lies in store for Everton as they take on Blue Square Premier League side Tamworth. The last non-league team to beat a top-flight club was Sutton United who beat Coventry City in 1989’s third round, but it’s surely only a matter of time before the footballing fates conspire against a big team once more. The worrying form of the Toffees is bound to make their fans more than a little nervous.

Nowadays of course much of the football we see on our television sets comes courtesy of Sky TV but ITV are allowed to screen a certain number of live FA Cup games, taking over from years of steady co-coverage by the BBC – much to the chagrin of Ole Big Ears (Gary Lineker, not the FA Cup). It’s to be hoped their often cack-handed presentation doesn’t spoil another set of memories.

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