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The greatest Cup competition in the world.

October 24, 2013

This weekend is FA Cup 4th Qualifying round weekend.

64 teams, 32 ties.

64 teams dreaming of Cup glory. Of making that 1st Round, then, who knows, maybe the 3rd?             

From Workington to Weymouth, Hartney Whitney to North Ferriby; dreams will come true, hopes will be dashed.

A win, and it could be Hemel Hempstead versus Wolves. It could be Colwyn Bay versus Coventry City. It could be your game on national TV, your moment in the spotlight.

Us Albion fans have been there before. Cup campaigns starting in early September. The excitement of bringing a Conference side back to Eton Park for a 4th Qualifying Round replay. The thrill of simply being in the first round draw alongside all the ‘big boys’.

It was this thrill of drawing 1 of the ‘big boys’ that I was hoping to experience back in the 94/95 season.

The Brewers had been drawn at home to Hitchin Town of the then Isthmian League. The Isthmian was at the same level of the pyramid as the Beazer Homes Southern Prem that we occupied, but was basically just a league for the London clubs, whilst ourselves and Gresley made trips to Hastings, Dorchester, Crawley… good old regional leagues hey!

Anyway. After starting our Cup campaign in early September and winning away at Grantham Town, Desborough Town, and Eastwood Hanley; Hitchin were the obstacle between us and the 1st round proper.

My Dad had explained how the teams from higher leagues would join in the next round, all the big clubs that played at big grounds and got big crowds, a world away from the Beazer Homes Prem.

I was excited.

I had heard my Dad’s stories of Aldershot, of Leicester. Truth be told I still love hearing them today. And I was excited that it could happen again… as long as we beat Hitchin.

There was a good crowd in; 937 to be precise.

I remember standing in the Brook End before kick-off and it being sunny. Albion were in their red and white away kit due to a colour clash.

The Albion fans gathered in the Brook End started singing “Albion Albion Albionnn…”

“Nothing strange with that on a Cup day”, I’m sure younger fans would say, but back then there was just no singing whatsoever at games! It took a lot for the Brewers faithful to get going, and I was surprised but quite enjoying the fact there was a bit of noise at a game for once.

To be fair though, the singing didn’t last for long.

So, here we were. Just 90 minutes away from sorting out these nobodies from the London league, then onto Cup glory we would go.

We were going to win. We HAD to win. Defeat was unthinkable to little 8-year old me, attending my first ever FA Cup fixture. We would win and go onto play Manchester United in the 3rd round, Jon Williams would mark Andrei Kanchelskis but let’s face it, probably struggle a bit against Kan-Kans raw pace, but maybe Jason Rhodes could cause Bruce and Pallister a couple of problems, as I watched on enjoying my 2 favourite teams (at the time! No allegiance to United since I turned 10 and saw sense!) playing out a cracking cup tie that hopefully I could be a mascot for as well?

I had it all planned out you see.

But the FA Cup took 1 look at my hopes and dreams for the 1994/95 campaign, laughed, and threw them right back in my face.

I think it was in the first half when Hitchin scored to the delight of the handful of their fans huddled behind the goal.

We didn’t manage to equalise, and that was pretty much it. We were out.

I remember standing on the Popside in the 2nd half and watching at full time as the Hitchin players celebrated with their fans (both of them). I felt jealous. The type of jealousy I had when someone in school would get a football shirt that we all wanted, or when someone got Merlins Premier League ‘shiny’ sticker that was so elusive.

It was a harsh introduction to the Cup, to how unforgiving it is. To how you can’t just assume your place in the next round.

But would I have changed it?

No, it just makes you appreciate drawing Manchester United that bit more.

Here’s to a successful 2013/14 FA Cup campaign.

Up the Brewers.

 

Ps – Hartley Wintney away in the 1st round will do me nicely, or any decent non-league away draw for that matter.

And on a sidenote – Hitchin went on to knock Hereford United out in a 1st round replay, before losing 5-0 at home to Wycombe Wanderers in the 2nd round.

 

 

 

 

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From → The Albion.

One Comment
  1. Good luck mate. We might have won it seven times but the last time was 1957! The FA Cup…a cruel and unforgiving mistress.

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