Every year, the FA Cup captures the imagination of sports fans across the country. Whether it’s the tense nature of knockout football, the history of the world’s oldest cup competition or that so-called ‘magic’ we associate with its plucky underdogs, something about the Cup is special and close to our hearts.
Who’s up for the Cup?
It’s fair to say that in the last few years, some of the romance of the competition has faded. Big Premier League clubs are more likely to rest their important players – the ones we neutrals want to see flounder on a muddy, uneven pitch. Fewer amateur sides seem to be pulling off the giant-killings we love to see, as the level of EFL and Premier League clubs continues to grow. But there is still that sense of unease you feel as a fan of a professional side, when a huge, non-league defender lumps the ball into your 18-yard box. It’s still (and always will be) the tournament where anything can happen.
What is so entertaining about the FA Cup is the inclusion of clubs from across English football. Local or village teams staffed by amateurs, often with an ex-pro or two and perhaps a coach who once babysat Alex Ferguson’s brother’s dog. Teams that you never would have thought about, let alone watched, had you not suddenly drawn them in the Cup, and teams that you are likely to follow from that point onward.
We never knew about Sutton United, for instance, until they shocked Coventry City in 1989, and no one had heard of Harlow Town before they beat Leicester City (the 2017 Premier League champions, no less) in 1980. No one gave them a hope, but they got results so astonishing that they are spoken of with awe to this day. Except by Coventry and Leicester fans.
So who should you back?
If you fancy a flutter on the Cup, you need to know whether the hearts of the big boys are really in it. Will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be eager to win his first trophy for Manchester United? Will Premier League newcomers Wolves fancy a shot at the big time? Will relegation-threatened Crystal Palace have their eyes on the prize, or looking over their shoulders? You can back Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves at 10/1 and Palace at 16/1 in the FA Cup betting.
You know in your head that the plucky underdog doesn’t stand a chance against the well-oiled machine of an Arsenal, a Liverpool or a Manchester United. But in your heart, you know the FA Cup is different and that if anyone is going to cause an upset, it will be the minnows on a cup run. More than a hundred years of history can’t be wrong.
This is why the FA Cup still deserves to be regarded as one of the most important competitions in world football. It continues to be a beacon of hope; that amateurs can aspire to face off against much better prepared (and much better paid!) professionals. Whether you enjoy a flutter on the football or watch simply for the love of the game, the FA Cup is something that we can continue to be proud of.