Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The Romance of FA Cup

The 4th round draw seems to have sprung up some interesting ties. Man Utd and Spurs (according to Sky Sports News) have 19 FA Cup wins between them, but the fixture failes miserably to whet my appitite. No doubt the dream tie of Liverpool vs Havant and Waterloo will fail to materalise due to the Swansea players being every bit as keen to play at Anfield as the non-leaguers, and Liverpool vs Swansea is just not the same.

The biggest game of the round for me, however, is (assuming we beat West Brom) Peterborough vs Charlton.

I know you were all expecting me to say that, but there is an added element to this game. You see my wife comes from Peterborough, and since we met in 1997 we have not played them. The last game was a 5-1 trashing at the Valley in April 1994 when Gary Nelson scored a hat-trick and goals from Carl Leaburn and Pardew himself confirmed Peterborough’s relegation from what ever they called Tier 2 in those days. As my father-in-law is a regular at London Road, and his father used to play for them back in the 1940s I have been waiting for a draw that matches us up for over ten years now. Clearly the cup game at The Hawthorns is suddenly more important to me than three points. I didn’t think I’d find myself saying that.

While we are talking about Peterborough, with them signing a Norwich reserve keeper for £400k today there must be a possibility that they are already spending the rumoured £2m Pardew is willing to pay to sign Aaron McLean. Either that or they are speculating on a 20 year old with no Tier 2 experience in the hope that they will be promoted this season. Even though they are nearer the automatic promotion places than we are it seems like a big gamble to me.

Less than 9,000 were packed into The Valley on that day in April 1994, and the atmosphere was very upbeat for a team that had fallen from second place in the division following a collapse that became much more common place during our Premiership seasons. If you are to believe what is being posted on some blogs there is a latent demand for those days to come back. New York Addick covers this subject much better than I could, and why re-invent the wheel. Needless to say I wouldn’t swap places with Peterborough or the club that was playing them that day.

Against West Brom the atmosphere at The Valley on Saturday was very flat. Partly due, I’m sure, to the fact that the ground was more than half empty but with something like 50% more fans than we had in 1992 when The Valley reopened it’s astonishing just how much the increase in support has diluted the over all atmosphere. Not that this should come as a surprise, Along with Man Utd there are many clubs that have noticed that with a substantial increase in capacity something is lost along the way. Clearly not money I might add.

Like NYA I am much more of spectator than a fanatic at games, despite the fact that the fortunes of the club determine my moods from week to week. I have been that loud fan on the terraces, but age has caught up with me and, along with the Taylor Report, I now prefer to sit on the halfway line and limit my noise to cheering goals, clapping the players after a game and the odd ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ when something exciting happens.

Anyway I somehow doubt that we will beat West Brom so I will be denied the joy of having my father-in-law remind me that his boys dumped us out of the FA Cup in 2008 for the next ten years.

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