As we approach the New Year, the third round of the FA cup begins to loom large with matches scheduled to take place over the weekend of the 8th/9th January. Unlike the Carabao Cup, formerly the League Cup, where only teams from the EFL and Premier League are entered, the FA Cup is open to all comers.
The first-ever round of FA Cup matches was played on the 11th of November 1871. At that time, the league consisted of 50 teams, all of whom were invited to participate, 15 of which responded. Only 12 teams took up their places in a competition which spanned just 13 matches.
The final was played on the 16th of March at the Kennington Oval between the Royal Engineers and Wanderers FC. Wanderers won by 1-0.
How the (Emirates) FA Cup Works
Over the years, football has grown in mammoth proportions to become the nation’s favourite sport, and in the current 2024/2024 football season, 736 teams entered the (Emirates) FA CUP competition. The tournament is seeded so that the smaller, amateur teams play amongst themselves in the first qualifying rounds, of which there are six. Thirty-six teams qualify for the next stage.
The first round proper is when professionals teams from Leagues One and Two enter the competition. Teams from the Championship and the Premier League make their debuts in the third round. From a potential “giant-killing” point of view, this is when the fun starts. Everyone loves the David and Goliath element where the underdog can sometimes have its day.
Marine FC to face Tottenham Hotspur
According to Sportingbet website, in which you can find a report about the FA Cup and where there could be an upset in the 5th round – one of the predictions which did come true was the Tottenham versus Norwich game where Norwich City ended-up 3-1 winners on penalties. It put an end to hopes that newly appointed manager, Jose Mourinho, would be bringing some silverware to North London for the first time in 12 years.
Although it was an upset, it wasn’t one of enormous proportions. After all, although Tottenham was placed higher in the league, both teams were in the Premiership. In terms of giant-killing, Tottenham’s draw in the next round of the FA Cup this season is the Northern Premier League side (the 8th tier in English football), Marine FC, who have potential. Now that would be an upset of massive proportions if it were to happen.
When Hereford United beat Newcastle United
Big upsets do, however, happen. In 1972, Southern League side Hereford United, a 5th tier side, knocked out First Division Newcastle, a 1st tier side. Ronny Radford scored a remarkable and memorable goal which prompted a pitch invasion by delighted, delirious Hereford fans.
The Biggest Upset in an FA Cup Final
Probably the most celebrated underdog win was that of Sunderland when they beat Leeds United in 1973. Leeds were 1st Division high flyers then, with Sunderland being a second division club. The Black Cats became the first, Second Division side to win the FA Cup since 1931 when West Bromwich Albion beat Birmingham City by 2-1.
Other Interesting Examples
There are many other cases as well, where people could enjoy interesting games where big teams are struggling with outsiders. As you know, many of the clubs in lower leagues find this tournament very important because it is the only chance for them to face some of the big clubs from the Premier League. Throughout history, there were many surprises were a complete outsider manage to win against some big-name. While these surprises indeed are not so common, it represents a great spectacle for the public, especially in the final.
One of the great examples that show how having a team with excellent chemistry and strategy could help even against the strongest ones. It was the year 2013 when we had a chance to see one of the biggest surprises in recent years. That game was the victory of Wigan Athletic against Manchester City in the final. The most interesting about Wigan during this season is that they managed to win the Cup and be relegated from the league during the same season.
There are many other examples as well, like the game where Arsenal lost to Millwall in 1995, or Wimbledon’s win against Liverpool in 1988. When it comes to some more recent years, we have to mention the game between Chelsea and Bradford City, which ended in a result of 4:2 in favor of Bradford. During that period, Chelsea was very successful in both domestic and international tournaments, with popular names like Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba, and more, which makes this result even more surprising.
What Can We Expect This Year?
The fact that less-known teams are intentionally preparing themselves for this championship for a long time, there is never an easy game, even if a top-tier club plays against some club from relegation leagues. Therefore, we can expect many exciting matches during January 2024, like the one between Everton and Rotherham. They played against each other two years ago when Everton took the win by 3:1. Another match that could be a potential surprise is Chelsea Morecambe. The Shrimps have never faced Chelsea in any competition, and they are currently in excellent form.
According to the statistics, each season at least one club from a league lower than League 2 manage to reach the fourth round of the competition. For those teams, that is the only chance to get noticed, which is especially important to talented players. One of the best examples is Jamie Vardy and his former club Fleetwood Town. This club got to the third round of the FA Cup, and Vardy got noticed by the Leister City where he became one of the best strikers in the world today. Also, his transfer was a record for a non-league club at that time, which was over 1 million pounds.
Therefore, these are only some of the reasons that should motivate you to don’t skip any game in the following round. Games where teams which are not in the top leagues are playing might get especially interesting because there could be another great talent revealed.