WHILE it is a cliché to say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, it is definitely true that both the FA Cup isn’t the competition it once was, and neither is FA Cup nostalgia.
There are any number of good reasons why this has happened – the number of matches now played at Wembley Stadium (and the high standard of so many other stadia around the country), the number of games televised throughout the season and the huge build-up and hype afforded to the most mundane and miserable fixtures, the influx of players from countries which don’t have a heritage of cup competitions, and by no means least, the much greater participation in European competitions.
Football is poorer, though, for the magic that is now missing from FA Cup third round weekend.
Those 32 fixtures represent a link to the past that are such a key part of so many clubs’ histories.
Legends were made, managers were sacked, careers were boosted and destinies were changed.
It is the day when anything seems, and is, possible – when Sutton United can beat Coventry City, Wrexham can beat Arsenal and Worcester City can beat Liverpool. It is moments like those that help to provide the link from park football to Premier League and remind us that football is just a sport, played for the sheer enjoyment and for the joy of that improbable moment of sporting heroism.
Let’s hope for some more names and clubs to add to the list this weekend.