There are no more non-league teams in the FA Cup. I feel lost as to what I could talk about.
Fortunately for you, me, and my legion of adoring fans (who I presume exist somewhere), there are more opportunities for an upset in the fourth round this weekend than in many rounds gone by. This is the view of many, as the Premier League big’uns are, by and large, away from home.
The traditional view of the FA Cup upset is that the minnows must be at home, welcoming the posh, pampered top tier side to a ploughed field, grimy dressing room and gnashing, foaming fans at uncomfortably close quarters. Recent history, however, has suggested otherwise.
Recent history has seen some of the biggest upsets occur when the upstarts raise their game in the backyard of the big sides, inspired by their surroundings perhaps. People refer to Sutton United v Coventry as the most famous example of non-league ousting top league – which it is. The most recent, however, was Luton Town beating Norwich City 0-1 in 2013, when the Hatters were in the Conference, and the game was played at Carrow Road.
Manchester United v Leeds United, when Jermaine Beckford’s career hit an all time high. Last year’s duo of delights – Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City, Manchester City 0-2 Middlesbrough. The Daniels going into the lion’s den and giving it a tummy tickle.
Nevertheless, looking for shocks in this year’s fourth round the richest pickings seem to be in the standard cookie cutter mode for cupsets. Mainly as I can’t see Burnley winning at Arsenal, though I would love to be proven wrong.
I can’t see the marquee Friday night offering giving much surprise joy either. Manchester United are not much cop this season, van Gaal is halfway out the door and they almost lost to Cambridge United at this stage last season. Yet Derby were battered by Burnley on Monday and are not convincing in their challenge for the automatic promotion spots – without a late surge they are destined for fifth spot and a disappointing play-off campaign. 0-2 to the Red Devils for me.
There won’t be too much chance of a shock in the Saturday matinee either – Spurs will want a trophy this year. For years Spurs were the cup team, the FA Cup specialists. Yet they have not won it – or any trophy, or even reached the final of the FA Cup – since 1991. Their opponents, Colchester of League One, are 22nd, seven points off safety and haven’t won in the league since October 20. Their only victories since then have been in the FA Cup – against Wealdstone, Altricham, and the similarly dire Charlton. 0-3 Spurs.
I see an upset on Sunday. Carlisle have just come home to Brunton Park, after weeks away thanks to the awful flood damage. They host the hugely inconsistent Everton. There will be tiny dressing rooms. There will be gnashing, foaming fans at uncomfortably close quarters. I predict a 2-1 victory for the League Two Cumbrians.