The Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League all kick-start at similar times. It’s the best time of year for football fans when there’s that delicate balance of pessimism and hope as their favourite team’s flaws are yet to be actualised and their promise is still great.
The FA Cup is built on this excitement, of the minnows, the Davids taking it upon themselves to face up the biggest challenges, the ugliest challenges, and fight for the glory inherent in this competition. The romance of the cup is why fans and TV crews pack into tiny non-league stadiums, and why sites like seatpick.com will be scoured as spectators look for tickets: anything is possible, especially for non-league and lower league clubs who can share a pitch with the best in the world.
The FA Cup has been interesting so far — with only the qualifying taking place so far — meaning the non-league teams have managed to show their worth. It’s a chance for players and clubs who don’t usually receive the limelight to show the big clubs what they can do. Premier League clubs like Leicester City (last year’s winners) and Chelsea don’t enter the league until the 3rd round in January.
The qualifying rounds’ competition was between the fiery non-league teams who have nothing to lose and everything to play for – and it provided some show-stopping action.
One club to watch in the proper rounds is Notts County – who have put in impeccable performances so far, managing to beat Tamworth 4-0, putting them in the 1st round of the FA cup playing against Rochdale on 7 November. Havant & Waterlooville also had a cracking game against Torquay United, winning 4-2 in a match that saw Daniel Martin red-carded in the second half.
Another team to watch is Harrow Borough, who dominated in both of their performances in rounds three and four – most recently winning 4-2 against Chelmsford. Stratford Town were another dominating force in the 3rd and 4th qualifying rounds – recently winning 3-2 against Boston United.
The 1st round kicks off with AFC Sudbury vs. Colchester on the 7 November at 7 pm. After that, it’s all to play for as the matches come in thick and fast to determine which team will make it to the 2nd round. Walsall, Sunderland, Ipswich, and Bolton are all teams to watch in the 1st round.
Every round matters to these teams. Yes, it’s a chance at glory. However, it’s a chance to garner extra revenue. If they can be drawn against a major Premier League force in January, they will receive great gate receipts and television income which will help their bottom line become a lot healthier than it might otherwise be.
It’s hard to pick a winner this early because we’re only at the non-league team stages. You can argue that these non-league teams won’t have a chance against the big guns since one hasn’t managed to do it so far. The FA Cup winners have always been major Premier League clubs – Leicester City being last year’s winners, with Wigan Athletic’s triumph in 2013 marking the biggest upset the competition has seen in recent decades.
This year it’s easy to put money on teams like Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and United. If one had to be chosen, Chelsea is having a strong performance in the Premier League, so perhaps they’ll take the winners crown this year.
The FA Cup is exciting because non-league teams finally have the chance to perhaps make the TV screens – although TV crews don’t start filming until the 1st round. This year has been a great competition so far, so it’ll be interesting to see how the remaining matches go, especially as the big Premier League clubs enter the mix.