Step forward, the chorus line: Who will be this year's Ronnie Radford in the FA Cup?
The Weekend Dossier
This is the day when those players who spend their lives in the margins, the chorus line to the Van Persies, Agueros and Lampards, have the chance to seize centre stage. For some it could lead to a brighter future, for others it will be a fond memory in retirement. Who will be this year's Ronnie Radford? Here are 10 possibilities.
Hastings United (away to Middlesbrough)
Hastings United cannot afford to put players on contracts, which is one reason their ball-playing centre-half and club captain is due to fly to the United States next week to take up a scholarship at a Californian college. However, chairman Dave Walters has offered to buy him a new flight if the Ryman Premier League outfit bring their Championship opponents back to Sussex and Jirbandey is required to stay for a replay (in that event the fee from probable TV coverage should easily cover the cost).
Jirbandey was previously on the books at Peterborough United before having an improbable and unsuccessful trial at German giants Borussia Dortmund. Harshly sent off in Saturday's league draw with Wingate & Finchley, he is available to play today as suspensions incurred below Conference National level do not take effect for a fortnight.
Coventry City (away to Tottenham)
Coventry have flourished under Mark Robins after a bad start to the season, and promotion from League One is more important than the FA Cup. With that in mind Robins has already been active in this transfer window with the confident Clarke one of his more notable signings. Most famous for his altercation with Paolo Di Canio at Swindon, Clarke has struggled to establish himself anywhere since leaving Sheffield Wednesday in 2010 – City are his eighth club since. Now 27 he signed this week for Coventry on a free from Charlton after a prolific loan spell at Scunthorpe.
Bournemouth (away to Wigan)
Talented but with an attitude that has in the past held him back, Grabban may finally be realising his potential. At his fifth club in six seasons the 24-year-old striker is flourishing under Eddie Howe's sympathetic leadership on the south coast after emerging at Crystal Palace, having a difficult time at Millwall, then re-building his career at Brentford and Rotherham. Skilful, with an eye for a pass and a decent finisher, he has the potential to play at a higher level if he continues to apply himself at the League One club.
Watford (away to Man City)
Watford's new role as a finishing school for Udinese has provided the club with players previously beyond their budget, with the Czech Republic international one of the most notable. The 20-year-old has scored a dozen goals for the Hornets and both he and manager Gianfranco Zola appear keen to extend the year-long loan. Whether this fits into the Pozzo family's grand scheme remains to be seen, but given that their philosophy revolves around identifying and developing talent then selling on at a profit, the chance to impress Manchester City today will doubtless be welcome.
Macclesfield Town (home to Cardiff City)
Have boots will travel – to the United States, to Sweden and throughout the non-League game from the Midland Alliance to the Conference where he has scored 15 goals this season. Has made brief incursions into the Football League ranks with Rochdale and Wycombe without much impact to date. Macclesfield will hope he is able to overcome a knock picked up after scoring twice against Southport on Tuesday and is able to play today.
Burton Albion (away to Leicester City)
Big powerful striker who has been among the goals this season for a Burton side pushing for promotion from League Two. Born in Zaire (now DR Congo) he began at Newcastle but never played for the first team. Has since enjoyed a fruitful career in the lower leagues. Scored in both rounds so far, but also managed 11 shots off target in the two games, the competition's highest this season. Troubled Leicester without scoring when Burton won 4-2 at the King Power Stadium in the Capital One Cup in August.
Crawley Town (home to Reading)
The Irishman burst on the scene at Ipswich Town with three goals in four games from the bench and, after a prolific junior career, was tipped for stardom. However, a 43-match goalless run inevitably led Roy Keane to release him in 2009. Blackpool signed him but injuries and a continued lack of goals led to him being sold to Crawley last January. It may be that he has found his level – or simply regained his confidence – for the 25-year old has scored eight times in the last 13 games for the League One promotion hopefuls and will be a danger to Reading.
Mansfield Town (home to Liverpool)
The Stags defender will have watched events in Italy with interest this week having left Port Vale in the wake of an incident when he accused Vale fans of racially abusing him after a 3-0 defeat at Accrington. Geohaghon was on loan at the time and found himself in limbo while the incident was inconclusively investigated. Geohaghon's peripatetic career continued until he arrived at Mansfield on loan in February having previously been embroiled in Darlington's financial meltdown. Despite scoring an own goal in the Conference play-off semi-final defeat to York, he appears to have settled, returning to Field Mill for £5,000 in August after a brief spell at Kidderminster. His height (6ft 5in) and long throw could be a problem for Liverpool.
Cheltenham Town (home to Everton)
A Portuguese defender who decided to try his luck in England after being released by Sporting Lisbon, in part because English non-League pays as well as the Portuguese second tier. He played for several clubs in the south and west before joining the League Two Robins 18 months ago. He quickly established himself in the full-time ranks and the 25-year-old has become a regular in Cheltenham's promotion bid.
Luton Town (home to Wolves)
Once the most sought-after striker in non-League football, Fleetwood has so far failed to make the step-up to the Football League, but will nevertheless be a threat to a Wolves side desperately low on confidence. Though frequently used from the bench by the Luton manager, Paul Buckle, who also has the promising youngster Andre Gray at his disposal, Fleetwood's menace is underlined by his being the Hatters' top scorer in the Conference with 10 goals.
Charlton Athletic paid £200,000 to take the then 22-year-old from Forest Green Rovers in 2008 but he only played eight minutes for the club, as a substitute in a League Cup tie. A false dawn at Exeter and a good season at Hereford followed before he quit the League to join Luton. Only 26, he may yet make the grade.
Frozen pitches and flame-throwers: the FA Cup in 1963's big freeze
The sea froze, trapping seagulls in it at Poole. Helicopters were required to supply cut-off villages with milk and food, and dynamite was used to clear railway lines of snow. The big freeze of 1963 brought Britain to a standstill and the FA Cup was among the victims.
Fifty years ago today the third round began with three ties and 29 postponements. Sixty-six days and 261 postponements later it was completed, on March 11, by which time the fifth round should have been staged. In between, the coldest winter since 1740 had tested to distraction the ingenuity of groundsmen, the funds of clubs, and the patience of everybody.
At Norwich they used flame-throwers in an attempt to melt the ice, to no avail. Wrexham were more successful when they dumped 80 tonnes of sand on the pitch. Several grounds used coke-burning braziers but Leicester City, due to a fortuitous and toxic-sounding cocktail of fertilizer and weedkiller which had been applied the previous summer and warmed the topsoil, were able to reach the fifth round before the end of January. Halifax had a different solution, they turned The Shay into an ice-rink and charged entry. With clubs then largely dependent on gate receipts it was a smart idea.
The cold was only part of the problem. A work-to-rule in the country's power stations meant electricity blackouts were frequent with clubs asked to stage what games were feasible in daylight for fear of floodlight failure. Fans, meanwhile, struggled to get to matches regardless of when kick-off was scheduled as thousands of roads and railway lines were blocked for weeks on end.
The constant postponements persuaded the Pools Promoters Association to set up the Pools Panel which initially featured an odd mix of ex-players (such as Tommy Lawton and Tom Finney), Arthur Ellis (who refereed the first European Cup final) plus celebrities and MPs.
Some clubs went overseas to train, notably to Ireland where Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Coventry staged friendlies. The latter (then managed by the innovative Jimmy Hill) even suggested staging their tie with Lincoln City there. Lincoln said no, but lost 5-1 at home when the fixture was played.
When thaw followed, freeze flooding ensued creating further fixture congestion, but eventually the season was completed only a few weeks behind schedule with Manchester United beating Leicester in the FA Cup final.
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17 Years since Arsenal failed to make fourth round
54 Years since Liverpool last went out to a non-league side – Worcester City
0 Losses for Southampton in seven FA Cup matches v Chelsea
10 Years since Everton last went out to a fourth-tier team – Shrewsbury
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