For sport fans up and down the country, the first full weekend in January means only one thing: pissing cold rain – oh, two things, then – and a vague sense of obligation to act like they really buy into the romance of the FA Cup. The pressure to do so has been ratcheted up several notches since the BBC reacquired the rights to most of the games and started pumping out sepia-toned highlights from past years for weeks on end beforehand.
‘The Third Round of the FA Cup is when the magic begins,’ said occasional armchair Liverpool supporter Clive Watkins from Guildford. ‘The big boys joining the minnows, the chance of an upset …. It has everything you could dream of, as long as you ignore the fact that an upset is now marginally less likely than Glenn Miller turning up at the game riding Shergar and no-one would be there to see it anyway.’
This year’s Third Round draw has yielded a bumper crop of ties. Rotherham against Oxford United is expected to attract well over half of Rotherham’s average crowd of 4,000, while this year’s obligatory lower league survivor is Stourbridge Town. Their nickname ‘the Glassboys’, has enabled programme makers to do a piece on how Stourbridge used to have a glass industry before it all closed and the fucking river was diverted to build a giant Tesco.
‘Tottenham against Aston Villa – the first two sides to win the cup seven times, that’s the magic of the FA Cup for you,’ said Aston Villa fan Darren Stewart. Asked if he would be going to the game or even watching it on BBC One on Sunday at 4 p.m., Stewart smiled wanly and said he had some shelves to put up.
A state of emergency has been declared in Hereford, where it has been rumoured that John Motson has been sighted telling random passers-by about how he made his commentating debut in Hereford United’s famous cup win against Newcastle in 1972. These rumours remain unsubstantiated but Ronnie Radford has apologised for scoring the equaliser just in case.
Viewers in Scotland will have their own programmes. In two weeks’ time. Livingston against East Fife. Yeah, really. The poor, poor bastards.