Remember when the whole country stopped for the FA Cup final? With coverage starting just after 9am, both the BBC and ITV enjoyed viewing figures that most of today’s primetime TV programmes can only dream about.
The fourth round arrives this Saturday with the Amex staging the ‘Albion’ derby, with Brighton taking on West Bromwich for a place in the last 16.
But which of the respective managers, Chris Hughton or Darren Moore, actually wants to be involved in a fifth round tie in mid February?
With the Baggies targeting an instant return to the Premier League and currently well placed in the Championship, it will be interesting to see when the teams come out around 2pm how many changes Moore makes from his side’s win at Bolton.
For his part, Chris Hughton is almost between the rock and a hard place when it comes to the greatest cup competition in the world. Until it’s mathematically impossible, the ever cautious Hughton will always have one eye on that all important black line at the bottom of the Premier League. With Albion’s next league opponents, Fulham away on Tuesday, and Huddersfield beginning to look like they are being cut adrift by the rest, that means there’s only one other relegation place ‘up for grabs’.
I won’t change in my opinion that there are at least seven sides inferior to the Albion in the top flight, and therefore unless the Seagulls hit the biggest footballing iceberg in the next three months or so, Premier League survival is all but assured.
So why not have a go at the FA Cup?
Last year the Albion made it to the last eight for the first time since 1986 and ran Manchester United very close on a freezing Saturday night at Old Trafford.
But that’s the crux of the matter, to a degree the big clubs disrespect the FA Cup, until it gets to the business end.
And while the likes of Sunderland in 73, Southampton in 76 and West Ham in 80, will live long in FA Cup memory, in the last ten years, the cup has been won nine times by one of of the top six clubs in this country, the only exception was when Wigan Athletic shocked Manchester City in 2013.
A telling statistic, but do the Albion have the squad to do a Wigan Athletic?
Possibly, you must temper the point with the fact that Wigan were also relegated in the season they triumphed at Wembley, and lest we forget the Albion back in 1983 hid a plethora of dire league performances with an unforgettable cup run, which could have ended in a Hollywood finish in the 120th minute at Wembley.
Gordon Smith, where are you now?
Scotland actually but more on that in the coming weeks.
Back to the present, it is to a degree down to the luck of the draw, Liverpool are already out, Man Utd or Arsenal will go after this round, so if the balls and the velvet bag (or it’s replacement at least) are kind to the Albion, given they overcome West Brom on Saturday, another trip to at least the last eight could be a distinct possibility. Aside from Wigan, someone surely will buck the big six trend at some point, and with possibly the best squad the club has ever had, might it be the Albion?
We will have to wait and see, in the short term I think the Seagulls will have too much for the Baggies, and a comfortable 3-0 win is my prediction. Then it’s down to the magic and hopefully another winnable fifth round tie at home.
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