Romancing the Cup – Notts County preview

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A muddy field, jumpers for goal posts, the roar of wintergreen, the smell of a crowd. These are the things that childhood memories are made of and it’s always the cup. It might be a symptom of supporting a lower division side but I never dreamed of league glory. Lifting the Fourth Division Championship Trophy doesn’t quite have the same ring to it and winning the First Division was frankly a ridiculous idea. Although, bizarrely, slightly less ridiculous than it does today.

It was only the cup that opened up the possibility of you drifting past Bryan Robson, dumping Mick Mills on his backside or smashing the ball past Shilton. Kids these days, they’ve got it easy, they can just pull on the blue and white, close their eyes and pit themselves against Gerard, Terry or van der Saar, it’s probably harder for them to imagine turning out at Meadow Lane, it’s what they’re used to.

I wonder how Notts County fans feel about drawing Latics on the cup. Does it fill them that strange romantic mixture of anticipation and fear, the thrill of a possible ‘giant’ killing or the worry of getting a hiding? Are their younger fans running mental commentaries of them skipping past Diame in the playground or setting up friendlies on Fifa to see how things will pan out?
I ‘d hope so, but somehow I doubt that the prospect of drawing Latics keeps lower division fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation. I don ‘t know though, turn back time to the start of the Premier League, how would you have fancied a draw against Southampton, Palace, Oldham or Boro? At home? You ‘d have loved it, the council would have tried to shut it down, but you ‘d have loved it.

But the cup these days has lost its romance, right? Well, has it? Just because there are four or five sides that only start to take interest at the semi-final stage and some clubs would rather be focusing on not losing games in the league doesn ‘t mean that none of them would love to win it. If anything it should increase the aspirations of non-top flight clubs, give them better hope of a prolonged run.

It ‘s not the cup that ‘s lost its romance, become stale and second rate. The press and the Premier League moguls might want you to believe that, but it ‘s not true. Imagine watching your team running out at Wembley, hell, go the whole hog and imagine you running out with your team at Wembley, is the buzz still there? I bet it is.

The problem isn ‘t the cup, its top flight football, its cynicism, the cost of failure. That ‘s what ‘s wrong with the picture. The cup should be a break from all that, a rest, a distraction. It should be a chance of glory and a chance to show that you ‘re better than the non-football that “the best league in the world” forces you to churn out, week in-week out.

Anyway, I ‘m not going to win that argument today and there is a game to give a nod to. Luckily, given the thrust of what I ‘ve just said, Bobby looks like he ‘ll be putting a strong side out, the pundits will tell you that he wants to maintain the momentum of results against Hull and Wolves, but hell he might just want to do well in the cup. Suggestions are that Melchiot will play in a mask and that Scharner might be tested. Both are possibly motivational efforts for their replacements, but who knows.

There ‘ll probably be some changes, maybe Stochovich will get a run and Scotland a chance to break his duck, but, unlike Hull, County won ‘t be looking to take it easy with a top flight in the offing and I wouldn ‘t expect as many as last time out. County ‘s season has been well documented and no doubt they ‘ll be relishing for something on the field to overshadow the off-field shenanigans.

The fixture isn ‘t quite a meeting of old friends but definitely past acquaintances, Latics have had the best of past meetings, but cup games are more even, and that ‘s a problem, it is after all a cup game. You may think of Leeds or Chelsea when you think FA cup, but at least at the back of your mind I bet you also think of Canvey Island, Paul Jewell ‘s nadir and the moment there was no looking back for Wigan Athletic.

You know it shouldn ‘t happen tomorrow, you know that the game should be a stroll in the park for the boys, a boost for Bobby and an entertaining distraction, but it ‘s a football game, only two teams in it. Although the odds might be heavily weighted, County have a side that in large parts is better than their league status. It would only take one slip to make a mockery of them. One slip to bring defeat.

One defeat to start the lemmings panicking again.

The romance of the cup, eh?

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