This is the 15th in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum.
Every day, having started on May 1st 2020, a new set of exclusive FA Cup memories are being published via this FACupFactfile blog, and today is the turn of a football presenter / reporter for the Premier League & BT Sport.
SERIES ONE, No. 15
Connection to the world of Football: Football Presenter/Reporter for Premier League & BT Sport
First memory of the FA Cup: Becky says, “I was young. Really young, maybe 5 or 6, the first time I watched an FA Cup Final on the telly in the lounge on a Saturday afternoon with my dad. FA Cup Final day was always a big deal in our household, we never missed it, so much so, when my sister was born (which happened to fall on the same day as an FA Cup Final) my dad left the hospital to go home and watch it, before heading back….I’m not sure mum has ever forgiven him for that!
I’m from a village in the middle of Yorkshire, Valley Parade wasn’t too far from where we lived, or Elland Road, but I hadn’t been to either at this point, so seeing Wembley on the telly was fascinating. The size it, the colours, the flags, 90,000 fans singing, I was transfixed! I start to remember things from the age of 10 onwards. Even at 10, I knew those white suits Liverpool wore in 1996 were a bold choice, I remember feeling genuine nerves for Manchester United in 1999 as their quest for the treble was on, laughing and LOVING Alan Pardew’s dance goal celebration dance in 2016! The FA Cup makes some extraordinary things happen……on and off the pitch!”
That’s the wonderful thing about the FA Cup. Once you start recalling your early memories it transports you to start thinking about all the great memories it has provided. Especially those memories of the competition as a child, where one Cup Final recollection merges into another, providing an amalgam of joyous thoughts and feelings.
And who worth their salt hasn’t been in trouble because they put the FA Cup Final as a higher priority than a family event, even the birth of a child?
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Becky says, “To pick one is too hard….there’s been so many over the years, picking just one is doing a disservice to the others! But my memories are also changing. I now get to view these games from a different perspective, not only from a fans point of view, now I get to go to games from the very start….there’s a lot more to the FA Cup than just the ‘big teams’ joining in January. Life in the Preliminary stages is so much fun! Heroes are already being made, the under-dog has already triumphed and it’s my absolute pleasure to make sure these stories are heard and seen and get teams in lower leagues, much lower leagues, the exposure they need and deserve.
For example, this current season, I spent a brilliant Saturday afternoon with BT Sport Score at Melton Town FC. They play in the United Counties Division 1, they made their FA Cup debut this season and caused a dramatic upset by beating a Worksop Town side, who play two leagues above them, by scoring two late last-gasps winners in the Extra Preliminary round to reach the Preliminary rounds for the first time in the club’s history and earn a draw with Cleethorpes Town.
It may not seem much to you reading this right now, but that boiling hot August Saturday in Melton, for that game against Cleethorpes, was their ‘Wembley’ day. A crowd of about 800 gathered, their biggest crowd in club history, TV Camera’s were there; they had pulled out all the stops. It was the pinnacle of their football history so far. Unfortunately, despite a valiant effort they didn’t get the result and their journey came to an end, but they were so grateful for the competition, the opportunity and what they had achieved. After the game the supporters and both teams came together had a drink in the bar, to which they invited me too……this is the type of memory the FA Cup can create and these are some of my favourites.”
It’s wonderful to read Becky’s memories of the FA Cup played during the preliminary and qualifying rounds from August to October. Very special, personal memories can be formed by interacting with the people involved in non-league football when they are participating in the FA Cup. Memories that just cannot be replicated in the latter stages of the competition.
There are hundreds of ‘Cup Finals’ played the length and breadth of the country well before even the League One and League Two clubs join the party in November. And everywhere it happens there are fantastic volunteers who help to create a memorable day for those in attendance, win or lose, and that ethos continues post-match as Becky describes.
Last FA Cup match attended: Becky says, “This season it was right before Christmas. December 17th, a freezing Tuesday night down on the South Coast for Plymouth Argyle vs Bristol Rovers 2nd round replay with BT Sport! We had Chris Hargreaves with us as a pundit and his son Cameron was playing for Rovers that game. It’s the first time I’ve ever watched a game with a pundit’s son playing…..Chris was nervous, I don’t think he sat down all game, and he kept talking aloud tactics, positions, he lived every single second of that game with Cam!!
Rovers made it through 1-0, mainly due to one of the best saves I have seen in a long-time from Anssi Jaakola, who literally launched himself backwards and clawed the ball, fully stretched, off the line. As we were out of London, with a late game, the BT team stayed down in Plymouth for the night and despite the result, a very disappointed Ryan Lowe insisted he would buy us all a drink at the bar afterwards as he said we were in ‘his town’ and he would look after us. He did. Little, unnecessary gestures such as that stick in the memory, and it’s thanks to competitions like the FA Cup that I have those memories.”
Again, Becky’s memory of the FA Cup is not just about the match itself, even though that was littered with fantastic moments, but it is about everything that the FA Cup stands for. History, prestige, sense of belonging, hope, despair, dreams, camaraderie etc.
I’m sure Chris Hargreaves plays every ball and rides every tackle when watching his son play in any game, but the FA Cup has even more meaning, raising the intensity to off-the-scale levels.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Becky says, “I love it. I’m so grateful to get to work within it! It brings us moments of joy, elation and happiness mixed with shock, devastation and sadness! I think it’s one of the most emotional competitions out there, that means so much to every player and supporter in equal measures … and long may it continue!”
I’m not sure I could put it any better than Becky has! I was lucky enough to meet Becky at, you guessed it, an FA Cup tie involving two non-league clubs. It was obvious from watching her work that she loved every minute of it.
My sincere thanks to Becky for taking the time to share her personal FA Cup memories. If you didn’t love the FA Cup before reading her recollections, you couldn’t fail to do so afterwards.
No. 16 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a BBC Surrey Sport Commentator and massive Aldershot Town fan, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/fa-cup-memories-series-116-rob-worrall/
No. 14 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from an award winning non-league match-day programme producer and editor, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/fa-cup-memories-series-114-lin-mckechnie/
You can read this exclusive FA Cup Memories series from where it all started with BBC 5 Live Commentator John Murray by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/fa-cup-memories-series-11-john-murray/
Follow @FACupFactfile on Twitter for news of when future memories are published.