Recollections and thoughts on this famous competition from across the whole spectrum of the game, from well-known commentators to unsung heroes.
Every day this month, having started on June 1st 2020, a new set of exclusive FA Cup memories are being published via this FACupFactfile blog, and today is the turn of one of the Executive Editor of the Non-League Paper.
SERIES TWO, No. 19
Connection to the world of football: I am currently Executive Editor of the Non-League Paper having previously acted as News Editor. I was formerly Sports Editor of City AM for four years and, prior to that, worked in regional newspapers across Hampshire and Surrey.
First memory of the FA Cup: Jon says, “Like many other young football fans growing up in the late 70s and 80s, I would be glued to the TV on FA Cup Final day, taking in the full matchday experience, from the team hotel to crossing the white line under the Twin Towers at Wembley. The 1980s was a special era for the FA Cup. It didn’t matter a jot which two teams were taking part in the Wembley showpiece, they had the nation gripped.
My first memory of attending an FA Cup match was a very special occasion for my local team Farnborough Town. It was January 4, 1992 when Boro, then of the Conference, had drawn the mighty West Ham United at home in a third round tie.
For safety reasons, the game was switched to Upton Park so Farnborough fans in their hundreds boarded Supporters’ coaches from Cherrywood Road to east London to watch history being made.
Although West Ham were a Division One team, they were struggling at the time with Hammers fans protesting the regime of chairman Terry Brown and his board of directors.
Incredibly, under long-standing boss Ted Pearce, Farnborough managed to hold the not-so-happy Hammers to a 1-1 draw and a lucrative replay back at Upton Park in three days’ time. But it was the scenes afterwards that stand out for than anything.
On the final whistle, West Ham fans in their droves flooded onto the pitch to continue their protest and proceeded to march towards the celebrating Farnborough supporters behind on of the goals. As a fresh-faced 16-year-old, I remember feeling pretty scared as police formed a semi-circle on the edge of the penalty area to protect us. Then, just as the Farnborough fans turned down the volume, fully anticipating the worst, those in claret and blue in front of us suddenly began applauding us and our team. It was a lovely touch and a mighty relief also!
Three days later, we were back on the coach for the replay and I remember being interviewed by Meridian TV in the Cherrywood Road car park. Despite another heroic Farnborough display, West Ham won the replay 1-0. It was a tie which encapsulated the spirit and magic of the FA Cup and one I will never forget.”
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Jon says, “Aside from the hundreds of FA Cup ties I have covered over the years, my favourite memory involves another dream tie for my local team, Farnborough Town.
This time, it was February 13, 2003 when Boro’s memorable run to the fourth round for the first time earned them a lucrative tie against Premier League giants Arsenal. I was covering Farnborough for the local News & Mail series at the time.
Farnborough were drawn at home, but again, due to safety reasons, the FA deemed the tie should be switched to Highbury, which although controversial at the time was, in my personal opinion, the only sensible decision that could have been made.
Through his contacts, flamboyant owner/manager Graham Westley took his squad to La Manga in preparation with The Sun newspaper following their journey and sponsoring the shirts for the occasion, much to the ire of the regular backers.
Arsene Wenger selected a much stronger side than expected with big guns such as Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires and Ray Parlour all in the starting line-up.
Around 9,000 Farnborough fans made the trip to north London (I’m not quite sure where they all came from either), but, sadly, there was no big FA Cup shock on this occasion as the Gunners ran out 5-1 winners, thanks to two goals from Francis Jeffers.
To this day, however, Rocky Baptiste’s consolation goal has its place in Farnborough Town folklore and was the one and only time I lost my cool in the Press box!
Within 48 hours, however, Westley announced he was to up sticks for Conference rivals Stevenage Borough, taking eight players with him. It left a bitter taste but nothing at least could take away the biggest day in the club’s history.”
Last FA Cup match attended: Jon says, “Having spent the past few years largely confined to office barracks, I’ve not been out to as many games as I would have liked in recent years. However, I have been lucky enough to represent the Non-League Paper at a number of big ties out of deadline.
Sutton United’s fourth-round tie against Arsenal on February 20, 2017 was one that sticks out in the memory but the last tie I attended involved their Surrey rivals Woking, on route to another famous FA Cup giant-killing run.
It was January 6, 2019 when the Cards took on Premier League Watford in a Sunday lunchtime kick-off in front of 5,717 at Kingfield.
Watford were by no means at full-strength but still looked a classy outfit, coming away comfortable 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Will Hughes and captain Troy Deeney, who had come on as a second-half substitute.
The Cards, though, with Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler in the dugout as assistant manager, did themselves proud – especially as Watford would go all the way to the final that year before a 6-0 humbling by Manchester City.”
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Jon says, “As much as I would love the FA Cup to return to the glory days of the 80s, it would need a huge overhaul for that to happen. Unfortunately, the financial lure of clubs to enjoy Premier League and Champions League success these days is just too much, deeming the world’s greatest cup competition only third in the list of priorities for the elite clubs.
From a Non-League perspective, however, the traditions live on. You only have to read my memories further up the page to realise just what the FA Cup still means to supporters of lower league clubs looking to live out the dream.
Ask a number of managers and they will tell you the prestige and financial gain of a glorious FA Cup run remains just as high on their priority list as the league itself. If it all clicks into place, then just one lucky pairing of the balls in the velvet hat can seriously set up a football club for years. Burton Albion, Exeter City and Mansfield Town can all testify that in recent years.
For me, the only way to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, and to protect the integrity of the competition, is to offer higher rewards. Europa League qualification isn’t working it seems, so perhaps only a guaranteed Champions League place for the winners will certainly alter the ambitions of Premier League managers and help make the FA Cup immortal again.”
Sincere thanks to Jon for sharing his FA Cup memories of his local sides throughout the years, teams I used to watch frequently when I lived in Mytchett in the early ’90s.
Some Other FA Cup Memories in Series Two
Series 2 No. 1 – Jonathan Overend – https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/fa-cup-memories-series-21-jonathan-overend/
Series 2 No. 18 – Nick Godwin (BBC Radio London match-day commentator) – https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/fa-cup-memories-series-218-nick-godwin/
Series 2 No. 20 – Daniel Ortved (Danish TV football commentator) – https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/fa-cup-memories-series-220-daniel-ortved/
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