FA Cup Third Round Thoughts: The Greatest Day in English Football

12 January 2011

Sergio Torres (Hidden) celebrates with fans after scoring the second goal for Crawley Town. (Credit Image: © Paul Childs/Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com)
While it took four days for the third round of the FA Cup to be completed, the thirty matches of the FA Cup third round this past weekend completely engrossed me. When it was all said and done, it continued to reaffirm my belief that the FA Cup Third Round Proper are the best collection of game in all the English footballing calendar. From the upsets, to all the controversial calls that ended up not being all that controversial, to the beyond shocking decision, and the spectacular goals that leave one gob smacked, it’s one that I could talk about for hours. It’s something that takes me a while for me to crystallize my thoughts on, simply because I could talk about everything and end up with 3000 words.

While the initial third round draw left the public with only two ties they seemed to care about, I went hunting for the games that could produce upsets. While some may only care about seeing the big names advance as far as they can, the sooner they are out, the better the competition is to me. While I may sound like a hypocrite considering Chelsea’s success in this competition, I just love the little man in this competition. It also helps that Chelsea haven’t been the giant many think they are for too long (in reality Chelsea were mid table fodder until the late 90s).

However, the thing that annoyed me the most about this weekend was listening to the various podcasts I listen to. With the careless disregard to every other game other than Arsenal/Leeds, Manchester United/Liverpool, and Stevenage/Newcastle United, I almost wondered if they realized 29 other third round games were played this weekend. No excuses could be made for lack of highlights (the FA put up highlights for every game on youtube), and those who know their way around technology had highlight programs from ITV at their whim.

Sure, those were the three games with the most potential talking points, but to only care about the obvious when it comes to the third round of the FA Cup is missing out on the biggest point: this is the day the masses want to see the upsets. While I pay some attention to the entire football pyramid of England (thanks Soccer Saturday and Talksport’s Matchday Live), I don’t get engrossed in it to the degree I do on third round day.

So what were all the talking points from the third round? I think the better question is where do I start?

* Theo Walcott now has a reputation in my mind as a diver. It’s also his own fault I now have that opinion of him. While I was suspicious at the time it was a dive, to blatantly admit it in the public is just dumb. Sure, the linesman bailed the referee out with an already raised flag, the fact was he almost got away with it. While Arsenal ended up with a legitimate penalty not too long after, Leeds United were the better team over the 90 minutes, and with the fixture pile up now coming for Arsene Wenger, I’d fancy Leeds United at Elland Road to advance to the fourth round.

* Huddersfield Town and Bolton Wanderers took completely different paths in dispatching their non-league opposition. Huddersfield Town made sure Dover Athletic were out of it early, while Bolton Wanderers had to call in Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander off the bench to win it late. York City didn’t come too close to scoring, but Bolton should be embarrassed their fringe players couldn’t see off a Conference side. Dover Athletic would have had dreams of knocking off their League One opponent, but they were out of it after only eight minutes.

* If you have not see Lee Hughes’s second goal for Notts County in their 2-1 away win at Sunderland, find it and be amazed. While it seems Ince has found his level of management in the lower leagues (though I think he did not get the fairest of shakes at Blackburn), it had to make him personally happy to get one up on his old Manchester United team mate Steve Bruce.

* I hate to say it like this, because I have nothing but the utmost respect for Avram Grant, but it seems every time he’s in a ‘win or be fired’ situation, he wins. Sure, their win over Barnsley wasn’t convincing (or their 2-1 win over Birmingham City on Tuesday), but West Ham continue their season of advancing in cups. Now if they could only convert that into better league form.

* I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Manchester United and Liverpool. Frankly, once the news broke that Roy Hodgeson left Liverpool and Kenny Daglish was coming in, there was no way in my mind Liverpool was winning the game. That said, I didn’t expect it to go down the route in which it did. I felt the foul on Berbatov was a penalty; yes, he made the most of the situation, but you’re clipped in the manner in which he was in the box, the referee is always right in pointing to the spot. As for Gerrard’s sending off, that was another call Howard Webb got right. Regardless of what Gerrard got first, if a player lunges into a tackle in the manner in which he did, the referee is going to send you off. Manchester United’s performance was the same performance they have had all season; just enough to get the job done.

* Great wins for Fulham and Everton over lower league opposition. Hopefully it will be the jump start for them to move higher up the table.

* I had to admit the reaction on twitter to my feelings on Chelsea’s 7-0 win made me laugh. Their performance against Ipswich Town should be taken with a grain of salt. After sacking their manager in the middle of the night, their interim manager then had to travel for the game, having no time to train with the first team. Chelsea unlocked the safe just after the half hour mark, and emptied the contents. Kalou and Sturridge will not carry their performance over into the league, and Anelka runs so hot and cold it’s hard to tell. The only Chelsea player that one maybe able to say is starting to look like their old self was Frank Lampard.

* I was very pleased for both Crawley Town and Stevenage for the scalps. It ensured that we will have at least six non Premier League sides in the fifth round. I have to admit I am happier for Stevenage fans for enacting just a little revenge on Newcastle United.

* Leave it to both the draws in both the third round and fourth round to give us the Sven Chronicles. I think Leicester City’s best chance of advancing was at home, and I don’t think Sven’s side has a prayer at the City of Manchester Stadium.


toddmintz January 12, 2011 at 4:06 AM  

I thought Birmingham was awful in the Carling Cup with West Ham down to 10 for 30 ninutes and yet still losing 1st leg on Cole goal. Stevenage just manhandled Newcastle, I love it. So I believe now Alan Pardew is (2-3-0) since taking over the job, 3 losses that is I guess I did not "do the record the British or right waY" so Sorry.

Sunderland loss suprised me. Ipswich losing 7-0 gives little help for tie against Arsenal in Carling CUp 1st leg.

Fulham FA Cup win was good, finally started to do the right things defensively that made them hard to break down last season giving up I think in the top 3 in fewest goals allowed. Good Everton back on track, I hope Felliani gets his shot in these games to show some of the gifts he showed when first breaking into the team.

eplnfl January 12, 2011 at 8:10 PM  

Never a better piece. The last weekend and then the League Cup are what makes English Football great. May be we should forget the EPL and the Big 4 or 5 who never seem to change and give more attention to the great action we saw last week.

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