The excitement of the 3rd round draw
This evening the BBC will fit the FA Cup draw into their schedule as the Premier League and Championship clubs enter the competition for the first time. Steven Gerrard and former Claret Ian Wright are making the draw from the BT Tower in London at approximately 7:10 p.m.
The FA have described the event as one of the most eagerly anticipated dates on the football calendar. That maybe the case for the smaller clubs left in the competition, clubs such as Barrow who yesterday won 2-1 at Bristol Rovers, but for the bigger clubs the whole thing has now become something of an inconvenience.
When I were a lad – as they say in this part of the world – it really was a big event. The draw was always held on a Monday dinner time (only posh folk would consider referring to it as lunch back then) and it would go out on the BBC Light Programme which for younger readers was a radio station.
The radio commentator, with a hushed voice, would take us into FA Headquarters, then at Lancaster Gate. We would be held in an anti-room until such time as the broadcasters were allowed into the chamber where the draw was taking place. Once admitted, we would hear the 64 balls being shaken up in the blue velvet bag (we were told it was blue) and we sat with pen and paper ready to write them all down. Two FA officials would conduct the draw, one drawing the home teams and one the away teams.
We used to sneak transistor radios into school; it was such an event no one wanted to miss it, and fortunately it used to coincide with the school dinner break as we gathered around the radios in small groups.
Back then, the big clubs were eager to have a good cup run while the smaller clubs were hopeful of grabbing a bit of glory with a shock win. Today, the big clubs, in the main, show precious little interest in the competition and the smaller clubs are more concerned in landing a big tie to make a bit of brass from it rather than looking for glory.
Last season Exeter played host to Liverpool in the 3rd round. Twice they led but both times an under strength Liverpool side drew level with the game eventually ending 2-2. Exeter missed out on their moment of glory but were they bothered? Not really, they gave the impression that they were more delighted to land an Anfield replay and the money that brought in. They lost that replay 3-0 in front of an attendance of over 43,000.
How much do Burnley value the FA Cup? In last season’s 3rd round we came from behind to win 2-1 at Middlesbrough (top picture); it was our first FA Cup win since beating Burton in the 4th round in 2011 on the occasion of Eddie Howe’s first home game in charge.
Two years ago we were drawn at home against Spurs (bottom picture) in the first Turf Moor home game of 2015. We opted to switch the game to a Monday night. It attracted an attendance of less than 10,000. For someone who was brought up on the classic Burnley v Spurs games of the early sixties, that was hard to take in, but it was hardly a surprising attendance given the club’s efforts to make it as difficult as possible to attend.
I’m afraid it’s a competition that’s long lost its glamour. One of the group I travel to away games with told me yesterday that he would probably only go to an away tie if it was at a ground where he’d never seen Burnley play. To him, someone a lot younger than me, the FA Cup holds no magic whatsoever.
It doesn’t for me if I’m being honest, but when that draw starts tonight I’ll be able to remember the days when it really was a magical competition, when football supporters across the country stopped to take in the 3rd round draw.
My first ever tie was against Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic at home in January 1961. There were almost 25,000 there to see John Connelly score in a 1-0 win. Could you imagine the same opposition this season, it would certainly attract an attendance considerably lower than will see the league clash between the two teams this Saturday even with a likely reduction in ticket prices.
In the previous season to that Bournemouth tie we met Blackburn Rovers at home in the 6th round. It meant they visited Turf Moor on successive Saturdays. On 5th March 1960 there were 32,331 inside the Turf to see us pick up both points in a 1-0 win in a season when we won the league. One week later, albeit now in the 6th round, we had an attendance of 51,501 for the cup tie.
I wish the FA Cup carried the magic it did for me as a young boy in my early years of watching Burnley, when the final was the only domestic game shown live on television. But it is not an important competition any longer with the small clubs looking for a pay day and the big clubs more intent on securing a top four place in the league to get into the Champions League.
Even so, there’ll still be some excitement tonight as the draw gets underway and I’ll still hope for the easiest home game possible to give us the best possible chance of getting through. Sadly, whoever we get, if we lose we’ll be told the cups are not a priority. After all, just as the big clubs want Champions League football, for clubs such of ours the priority is trying to stay in the Premier League.Follow UpTheClarets:
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