This is the 20th 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 reporter and presenter for BBC Essex Sport.
SERIES ONE, No. 20
Connection to the world of Football: Reporter and Presenter for BBC Essex Sport
First memory of the FA Cup: Victoria says, “The early 2000s is when I really got into football as a young girl so the first FA Cup Final I can really remember paying any interest to was Arsenal v Southampton. I didn’t have an allegiance to either team but I always favoured an underdog. We didn’t have any Sky channels at home so most of the football I followed was on the radio or on teletext. The FA Cup always felt like a treat being able to watch it on terrestrial television and sitting down to watch the final has always been a family tradition, whoever it involves.
I was born and raised in Colchester and it’s always been instilled into me about supporting your local club so Layer Road is where I watched football growing up. Luckily for me, bar the famous win over Leeds United in 1971, Colchester United enjoyed some of their best FA Cup results during my childhood.”
That Arsenal versus Southampton Final in 2003, won 1-0 by the Gunners, was the third to be played at the Millennium Stadium, (Arsenal had played in all three) but the first FA Cup Final to be played indoors. The Final is also notable for Paul Jones becoming the first substitute goal-keeper to play in a Cup Final replacing Antti Niemi.
Colchester United’s giant-killing of Leeds United in 1971 is seen by many as the greatest ‘David beating Goliath’ victory in the competition’s history. Ray Crawford and Dave Simmons were the ones who gave the U’s what proved to be an unassailable 3-0 lead, but the whole team is quite rightly remembered with pride by the people of Colchester, and with its 50th anniversary just around the corner, I can imagine the celebrations will be plentiful.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Victoria says, “I have two seasons which stand out for me and really the excitement and buzz of those probably gave me the appetite to pursue a career in sports journalism.
The 2003/04 season when Rowan Vine scored a hat-trick for Colchester United against Coventry City to put them into the fifth round. The subsequent trip to Sheffield United was my first away game.
And then there’s the 2005/06 season and FA Cup run which culminated in a trip to Stamford Bridge where the U’s lost 3-1 to Chelsea. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget the noise of the away fans when the Roberto Carvalho own goal went in!
It’s not just about the results and fixtures though. Those memories represent a time of falling in love with football, being surrounded by family and sharing those moments together and the best part of the FA Cup, which is believing anything can happen.”
Victoria is absolutely spot on. The FA Cup is about so much more than just the games played and the wins gained. It has formed the hook for many generations to fall in love with the game itself, to start following a football team, and to get swept away by that tide of hope that only the FA Cup can deliver.
Most League victories are celebrated wildly by fans at the time, but only a handful of the many games played stick in the memory for ever. A victory to clinch promotion or a title, a win against old rivals, or an unbelievable comeback victory. But how often do they come around? Otherwise it’s just another three points. In the FA Cup every game has the potential to be forever etched in one’s memory. And, as with the Chelsea game for Victoria, the club doesn’t even have to have won the match.
And disappointments from League game losses can be tempered in the knowledge that the next game is only seven or fewer days away. A loss in the FA Cup means waiting a whole season before playing in it again. That’s what makes it such an exciting competition. You only get one chance to lose.
Last FA Cup match attended: Victoria says, “Most of the matches I cover for BBC Essex Sport are those involving our non-league sides so the FA Cup starts much earlier for me these days.
This season, the first game I covered in August was the FA Cup Extra Preliminary round tie involving Coggeshall United at Woodbridge Town. It was a really windy day, the dugout kept blowing over and I really struggled to get signal to do my updates!
The last FA Cup match I attended and reported on this season was the fourth qualifying round between Billericay Town and Sutton United. The match attracted a lot of attention because Billericay equalised in the last minute thanks to Goalkeeper Alan Julian’s header. It was brilliant to get to report on that and I covered the replay as well which Billericay won 5-2.
I also got to go the FA Cup first round draw this season as it was held at Maldon & Tiptree. They had an exceptional run in the cup and it was great to capture the excitement of the fans and those connected with the club on that journey.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to report on a FA Cup final at Wembley or see an Essex side there but I really, really enjoy fourth qualifying round day. Seeing teams on the verge of making history and getting to the first round gives me a buzz. One of the very first games I covered as a reporter was Heybridge Swifts at Haringey Borough, which saw them make the FA Cup first round proper for the first time in their history in 2017.
I couldn’t name you all the teams but not only was it great to get to report on that, but across BBC Essex Sport that day I think we had 7 live games we were covering – at least four of which were 4QR matches. That was a huge amount of work for the team behind the scenes but it was also brilliant for football in the county.”
Every season, sixty-four non-league clubs compete in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round in the hope of getting through to potentially face a fallen giant in the 1st Round ‘ Proper’ or to be selected as a ‘live’ TV game. Many of those 64 clubs have had to win through several games just for the chance of potentially making the 1st Round, and Maldon and Tiptree were one of two eighth tier clubs who had won five or six games to make it through this season, alongside Chichester City.
Those feats for Maldon and Tiptree and Chichester City made national headlines, and not just on the back pages. Maldon defeated Leyton Orient in their 1st Round tie whilst Chichester made history when they were drawn out as the last team in the 1st Round draw and received a bye to the 2nd Round.
What everyone involved in those clubs went through this season is what every single person involved in the 644 participating non-league clubs wish they could experience each year. Coggeshall United, whom Victoria had seen way back in early August, were one of 25 clubs who were participating in the FA Cup for the first time this season. Many, many non-league clubs will be hoping that they will be amongst the 25 or so new clubs taking part next time.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Victoria says, “I don’t know what will happen to the FA Cup when it comes to rights, coverage, timings of games, replays….but I think it is hugely important to football.
It’s the oldest cup competition, but it’s also the one that connects all clubs, and there’s an opportunity for every team to be involved…when there has probably never been more disparity, financially, between top and below.
I don’t want to see a side full of reserves or talk about concentrating on the league. I want the magic of the FA Cup that I see on a local level to filter all the way through again.”
I’m fully aligned to Victoria’s comments. The beauty of the FA Cup is that it is for everyone. It connects hundreds of village and small town clubs up and down the country with those at the top end of the pyramid. And the ‘magic’ of the competition can be found at those local clubs during the qualifying rounds because of that connection.
I’ve recommended for a long time now that owners and managers of Premier League and Championship clubs should go to experience the FA Cup at these village and small town clubs in August to get a first-hand appreciation of what the competition means to them. The hope is that after that experience they would then try to deliver the same kind of experience to their own fans later in the competition.
I want to thank Victoria for taking the time to share her personal recollections and thoughts on the FA Cup. It’s so heartening to learn of her love for the FA Cup and how that it was this famous old competition that developed her love for the game itself.
No. 21 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a Sportswriter and author of several sports books, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/fa-cup-memories-series-121-nige-tassell/
No. 19 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a record breaking non-league club manager, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/19/fa-cup-memories-series-119-dave-anderson/
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.