The FA Cup first-round kicks off this weekend, and there are some juicy ties ahead.
Some say it's the greatest competition in the world. The FA Cup has been going since 1871 when the winners were Wanderers. This year 737 teams will have played in the competition by the end of the third-round.
The FA Cup is so special because of the potential mismatches of teams. Small clubs are capable of reaching the stages where the bigger teams enter. This can lead to huge monetary rewards which can end up funding the smaller clubs for the next few seasons. Furthermore if the small clubs can go on to beat the bigger sides, then the giant-killings go down in history and will be remembered by the fans forever.
The competition has the ability to let fans dream, and have their dreams realised and go down in history. Whilst success may never be realistic in the league at the highest level, being able to beat a higher ranked team in this cup can satisfy the hopes of many fans.
One side hoping to cause another shock on Monday is Shortwood United.
1) Shortwood United have already come through five rounds of the competition, and on Monday night will play Port Vale of League One in front of the BT Sport cameras. They are in the eighth tier of English football and have never reached this stage of the competition before. On average they usually attract a crowd of 130, but on Monday this will be ten-fold as they have sold 1,300 tickets for the game. By day Shortwood players are students, painters, and plumbers but by night they will be on view to the nation. You can bet for sure that Port Vale players will be worried about this potential banana skin, and Shortwood United players and fans will be well and truly up for the biggest game in the club's history.
2) It would be unfair to mention Shortwood United without also mentioning Daventry Town. They are also from the eight tier and have too come through five previous rounds just to get to this stage. Daventry have an away trip to contend with, as they travel to League Two's third placed Chesterfield. Unfortunate that their fans won't get to see, FA Cup first round action in their own stadium, but a trip to Chesterfield will be a welcome change from the usual trips away. Daventry boss Darran Foster said ahead of the game "There will be one cup upset this weekend, so why can't it be Daventry?".
3) Another interesting encounter involves two former winners of the cup. An unlikely event in the first round you might think. However one of the sides have had to start from the bottom again. AFC Wimbledon v Coventry kicks off proceedings on the Friday night. Coventry won the competition in 1987 when they beat Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley 3-2. The 'crazy gang' won the cup the following year when they surprisingly beat Liverpool 1-0 thanks to a Lawrie Sanchez goal. Coventry boss Steven Pressley wants his side to give the Sky Blues fans some FA Cup joy after so long. "Fans have been crying out for heroes for a long time - since '87 - and it would be nice if this group of players could give them hope again." AFC Wimbledon of course had another memorable FA Cup tie last year when they faced MK Dons. They lost that encounter and will be hoping to do better this time round.
4) This weekend could perhaps see former Juventus, and Barcelona great Edgar Davids grace the competition as a player for the last time. The player-manager of Barnet hasn't featured much so far this season, in fact he doesn't even travel to some away games. He doesn't get paid for his services however, so it is a mutual agreement. He may be tempted to stick his boots on for Barnet's game against one of the biggest sides currently in the competition. The Bees face Preston North End on Saturday, and I know even Preston fans are hoping Edgar does make an appearance.
5) A big derby will be occurring in Saturday's early kick off as Grimbsy Town go head-to-head with Scunthorpe United. The rivals have not met each other for five years, and it will be an occasion the fans will certainly be looking forward to. Extra police have been brought in for the match just in case. It will be a sell-out match with 8,000 fans set to descend on Blundell Park. Not all of them will be able to leave happy however with one side set to take the bragging rights for perhaps the next five years.
image: © joncandy