The English FA Cup is the World's oldest knock out football competition, and in January the big boys come to the table. In an era where money talks and TV rules, has the FA Cup lost its shine?
Third Round weekend has always held a special place in the hearts of English football fans. It marks the moment in the season when the smaller fish in the footballing pond have a chance to pit their wits against the multi-millionaire superstars of the world stage. The moment that Biblical imagery is rolled out every year when the question is asked; Can David beat Goliath? Is there a Giant Killing to be had?
The Cup used to be a significant competition but as money and TV have come to dominate the game, meaning more money is at stake for finishing anywhere in the top league than winning the cup, the larger teams have played weakened sides or seen the competition as an inconvenience. Many cite the year 2000 when Manchester United opted out of the FA Cup to participate in the World Club Championship as the turning point in the fortunes of the FA Cup. Sir Alex Ferguson would later express regret over the decision which he insisted was forced upon them to help England's bid to host the World Cup.
The cup still means a great deal to ordinary football fans and can even ensure the existence of those smaller clubs that live off the potential payday from playing one of the giants of the game, but it is the shot at glory, the chance for immortality, that can come from defeating a larger opponent that keeps the sparkle in the eyes. We take a look at some of the great cup third round shocks of the past and look at where such moments of madness could happen again this weekend:
Sutton 2-1 Coventry, 1989
Sutton were not even in the football league, but a non-league side in what was then called "The Conference". Coventry had only lifted the cup a mere 18 months previously, having beaten Tottenham in a shock final themselves.
Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal 1992
George Graham described this defeat as his lowest moment in football. His side had looked comfortable, leading from just before the break, but a Mickey Thomas free-kick drew the Welsh side level in the 82nd minute and before anyone could comprehend what was happening, they scored a second and Arsenal tumbled out of the cup.
Stevenage 3-1 Newcastle Utd 2011
Newcastle Utd fans were in jubilant mood having seen the news from earlier that day that their bitter rivals Sunderland had been beaten by Notts County. Stevenage had met the North Eastern giants thirteen years previously in the cup, holding out for a replay before being beaten by a Shearer goal that did not cross the line. The drama all came in the second half and on the final whistle the minnows felt they had avenged the previous defeat. Boro had dominated the game with possession and shots on goal, it was a deserved victory
Shrewsbury 2-1 Everton 2003
The FA Cup threw together a clash of classic proportions. Kevin Radcliffe, had been Everton's most successful captain of all time, but on this cold January afternoon, he managed Shrewsbury to a defeat of his beloved Everton, a team that included a young Wayne Rooney. Nigel Jemson scored twice in the famous victory that saw Everton and not the Shrew tamed.
Hereford 2-1 Newcastle Utd 1972
This is often cited as the ultimate Giant Killing episode when Southern League Hereford scalped Newcastle Utd. Ronnie Radford scored an absolute belter of an equalizer which saw the fans invade the pitch in ecstatic celebrations. They then took the victory in extra time.
Bournemouth 2 0 Manchester Utd 1984
Harry Redknapp masterminded this shock against FA Cup holders, Ron Atkinson's United. The south coast side matched the giants for over an hour before scoring twice in the second half to seal a monumental win.
An entire web page is dedicated to the Giant Killers of the FA Cup that records all giant-killing exploits in the history of the competition. Explore their amazing archive.
January 2021 The ones to watch out for
The third round draw has provided some potential upsets to look out for this coming weekend, here is our round up
Kick-off times in Central European Time:
Saturday 9th January 13:00
Everton v Rotherham
The Merseyside outfit have had a mixed season so far, after being early trendsetters they have fallen off the pace. The Millers have had a dip in form over December and will have to play the game of their lives to overcome their opponents, but that is what giant-killing is all about.
Saturday 9th January 13:15
Chorley v Derby County
The Midland team with Wane Rooney as manager will be fielding a squad of Under 23 and Under 18 players after a Covid "outbreak" has left the majority of their squad unable to play. This could open up all sorts of potential upsets for their National League North opponents
Saturday 9th January 16:00
Stevenage Boro v Swansea
The Boro have a treasured scalp ten years ago when they ejected Newcastle United from the competition. Swansea could be in for a rough ride on Saturday. Neither side report any injury or illness concerns. The bookies back Stevenage to score but Swansea are looking solid. This is potentially the pick of the potential upsets for an even game of football.
Sunday 10th January 14:30
Crawley Town v Leeds Utd
This clash puts the Premier League free-flowing swashbuckling football of the Yorkshire Whites against the Sussex underdogs from League Two. The Crawley Town manager has been quoted as saying the match is a "free punch". His team has nothing to lose. Leeds will be hoping to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham earlier in the week.
Sunday 10th January 18:00
Marine v Tottenham
Non-League Merseysiders Marine have been rewarded with a home tie against high flyers Tottenham. This has all the ingredients of a cup upset, Tottenham can blow hot or cold and Marine will be playing the biggest game of their lives. It will be hard to tell whether the lack of fans will help or hinder either team but there will be huge anticipation for an upset
Monday 11th January 21:00
Stockport v West Ham
Another match thrust into uncertainty over Covid testing. There is a national weekly testing programme for league clubs but non-league teams do not get as regular testing. Stockport have had several positive tests back in November and a recent match against Eastleigh postponed. The last round of testing will take place 72 hours prior to kick off.