I've grown up with the FA Cup. Following a team such as Oxford, it gives a special chance for us to try and hit the headlines. A run through to the 3rd round with a potential dream tie against the likes of Manchester United issomething every fan of the club wants.
The last time we had a 'glamour tie', a certain Jefferson Louis was seen jumping around the home changing room with only a towel to keep his modesty as "Arsenal v Oxford United" was read out. A 1-0 televised win against fierce rivals Swindon Town had put us in the hat so to get a premiership team in the next round was even sweeter. Arsenal to their credit put out a fairly strong team that day, the likes of Seaman, Keown, Pires and Bergkamp all played, the Dutch master scoring his 100th goal in a 2-0 defeat for the Yellows.
The last time I watched Oxford in an FA Cup game was in the 2000/2001 season, an away trip to Macclesfield Town where a Phil Gray was enough to secure a 1-0 victory, although goalkeeper Richard Knight saved a last minute penalty to ensure there was no replay. So the excitement I have ahead of this weekends first round trip to Sheffield United is huge. I watched the draw on my own as my uni housemates didn't share the eagerness to watch it for some reason...
Nightmare trips to places such as Barrow and Carlisle were avoided as were potential bananaskin ties at East Thurrock United or Stourbridge. Infact, to be given a game at arguably the biggest club in the draw at this stage came as a relief. We'll go to Bramall Lane with nothing to lose, 'the Blades' are focused on promotion from League One this season, much like our own focus in League Two. Add this to the fact our manager Chris Wilder is a lifelong United fan having stood on the terraces as a boy and played over 100 games for the club then you have a very good chance of an upset.
What annoys me is the obsession of a lot of fans and the media with the 3rd round. Obviously, this is when the big teams and dream ties come in as I have mentioned earlier but for many of the non-league clubs such as Stourbridge, just getting to the first round is an achievement in itself. This seasons competition began on August 19th with the extra preliminary round and tomorrow - after another preliminary round and four qualifying rounds later - the cup has reached the first round proper. Some of the all non-league ties to look out for tomorrow include;
- Blyth Spartans v Gateshead
- AFC Totton v Bradford Park Avenue
- Salisbury City v Arlesey Town
Redbridge FC of the Isthmian League Division One North are the lowest team left in the competition and have a home tie against Oxfor City whilst Blue Square North side face FC Halifax face former premiership team Charlton Athletic on Sunday.
For myself though, the magic begins at Bramall Lane, a ground I haven't visited since 1998. We are playing well and I feel confident that we can at least force a replay. My dream last night, Jake Wright scoring in the 90th minute to clinch a 2-1 victory. COME ON YOU YELLOWS!