Friday, 25 January 2008

Surprise, Surprise

Tomorrow sees the FA Cup fourth round taking place and of course the dusting off and over-use one football's most tedious cliche about something to do with the 'magic' of the competition.

For those that don't know, this so called magic occurs when something unexpected happens in the competition.

Examples of such Wizardry include Southampton in 1976, Coventry in 1987 and Lawrie Sanchez's header in 1988.

The magic is all that more spectacular when a side from the lower leagues manages to vanquish their supposedly superior opponents. If the lesser side plies their trade at non-league level then we seem to be beyond pulling rabbits out of hats and instead looking at examples of what is tantamount to witchcraft!

The most shocking thing in these cases is that the footballing paupers in question are often not even professional in the sport. Growing up, I remember the likes of Aylesbury, Kingstonian and Woking all taking up the role of sorcerer in this magical realm of football's oldest cup competition.

Tomorrow sees the turn of the binmen, cabbies and fitness trainers of Hampshire's own Havant and Waterlooville take on the mighty Liverpool FC at Anfield having overcome Swansea in Round three.

The victory over the Swans seemed to suggest that the 'magic' of years gone by still remains. Victory for the little guy. Upsetting the status quo etc etc etc etc etc etc etc...

However, what people need to remember is that Swansea are currently riding high in League One and will have prioritised promotion over anything else. A good cup run for them would have proved to be little more than a burden. Losing to the Blue Square South minnows and the subsequent humiliation will be nothing more than water off a duck's (or Swan's) back if they are playing Championship football next season.

As for their Conquerors, they HAVANT (he he) got a prayer at Anfield and despite all Liverpool's current troubles, you expect if they were to field an under 17 side playing with no keeper they would still have enough to go through to the 5th round. The so called magic will be proven to be a farce such as when you realise there are no coins behind your ear...

As for the magic, let us consider that the only sides to have won the cup in the last 19 attempts outside the so-called 'Big Four' are Everton and Spurs - themselves hardly downtrodden paupers of the English game.

Speaking of Spurs and unexpected results, I don't think there is a single person in the world who would have predicted what happened on Tuesday evening. After 9 painful years in the wilderness and 21 unsuccessful games Spurs are very much on their way to Wembley. Like a battered wife or a bullied child, there comes a time when one becomes fed up constant beatings and lashing out in a way that leaves us all with our jaws on the floor.

Has the balance of power in North London shifted? No. Certainly not yet. The 27 point lead L'Arse hold in the league over their rivals should be enough to tell you that. Freak results happen all the time in sport. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will tell you that this seems to be the week for it.

FA Cup Fourth Round Fixtures

Southend v Barnsley - 19:45

Arsenal v Newcastle - 15:00
Barnet v Bristol Rovers - 15:00
Coventry v Millwall - 15:00
Derby v Preston - 15:00
Liverpool v Havant and W - 15:00
Mansfield v Middlesbrough - 12:30 - LIVE ON BBC1
Oldham v Huddersfield - 15:00
Peterborough v West Brom - 15:00
Portsmouth v Plymouth - 15:00
Southampton v Bury - 15:00
Watford v Wolverhampton - 15:00
Wigan v Chelsea - 17:15 - LIVE ON BBC1

Hereford v Cardiff - 12:30
Man Utd v Tottenham - 14:00 - LIVE ON BBC
Sheff Utd v Man City - 16:00 - LIVE ON SKY SPORTS

The Greatest Cup shock ever...?

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