As a fan of Non League football, my interest in the FA Cup normally dies for the season around December time. By then I have stopped moaning about the FA never updating their website with results and fixtures from previous rounds, stopped trying to sneak in a cheeky replay at a new non league ground, and stopped looking at websites trying to find the heart warming stories of David v Goliath. However, I did watch the semi-finals last weekend, enjoying the colour, passion and of course controversy of the two “local” derbies. It is interesting also to note how the FA Cup Betting odds changed during the game, especially after Chelsea had those two huge slices of luck in the matter of a few minutes.
Sean Ingle, of the Guardian, made a very valid point on the Football Weekly podcast about the failure of the referee to send off Peter Cech. In betting terms the odds would have changed dramatically with a goal keeper being dismissed.
But that was then and this is now. For me the FA Cup today means that there is just one game before we can start the whole magic again. I cannot wait for that day in July when the Extra-Preliminary round draw will be made. Then operation Non League will start again in earnest. I will be dialling up my good friends The Real FA Cup and planning on where we can hit this season.
Last season our travels took us to Cheshunt in the late summer sunshine, Chertsey Town in the pouring rain to see Lewes demolished by a lower league side, a spicy Monday night affair at Beckenham Town and a seven-goalfest atBurnham. Every single one of the games was tip top.
Every year we set off trying to do the road to Wembley, following a game in every round. One year we got as far as the 1st round, having got 6 games under our belt. We had ended up with Grays Athletic as our team and then they drew Carlisle United away. Sod that and off to Upton Park we went instead. Some have achieved such greatness as Andy Ollerenshaw and we doff our cap to him for sticking with it all the way to Weymouth and back.
The magic of the FA Cup for us is not the pyrotechnics, the playing of Rockin’ All Over The World or the crap suits worn by the players. To us the magic of FA Cup final day disappeared with our youth. We remember being able to buy the official programme in WH Smiths on the eve of the game, fans with rosettes, FA Cup Final Question of Sport, Saint and Greavsie on the team coaches to Wembley and that Princess woman who every year drew the short straw of giving the cup to the winning captain.
So we will be counting down the days until the likes of Pilkington XXX, Southend Manor and Oxhey Jets are on my “to do” list for next season. Perhaps next year will be the one I make it all the way to Wembley…although it is more than likely just to be Vale Farm, home of Wembley FC and Hendon in the shadow of the great arch.