The FA Cup's celestial guardians yesterday built on a thrilling weekend's football by delivering a fourth-round draw which threatens to further cement the old pot's return to giant-killing values.
Not one of the five remaining members of the Premiership's top six (the fourth-placed Tottenham went out to Leicester on Sunday) were granted a home tie or a straightforward away fixture.
Not that any club should take any fixture for granted after Manchester United's draw at Burton Albion. The winners of their third-round replay, which the BBC are to televise, will go to Wolverhampton. The pairing offered a poser for Glenn Hoddle and Jez Moxey, respectively Wanderers' manager and chief executive. Next Wednesday do they cheer for Burton Albion, and what seems an easier passage to the fifth round, or the lucrative and glamorous tie with Manchester United? Moxey sat on the fence. "It's going to be a fabulous day if Manchester United or Burton Albion come," he said. "Having Burton here will be a local derby which will be great - and, of course, the last time we played United at Molineux we beat them [in the Premiership in January 2004]. So we're really pleased."
Such is Jose Mourinho's confidence he will doubtless be unconcerned who wins the same night at Goodison Park but both Everton and Millwall will be straining that much harder now they know a home match against the champions is the prize.
Another replay, between Cheltenham Town and Chester City, which had been shaping up to be something of an afterthought, also accrued added significance when the winner was handed a home tie with Newcastle United. Once again Graeme Souness, should he last until the fourth round, will be widely informed that he is one result from the sack. Neighbours Sunderland have an even trickier tie, away to Martin Allen's feisty and upwardly mobile Brentford.
The holders Arsenal have to return to the Reebok. They have generally had unhappy experiences at Bolton's home but won there in the sixth round last year. In another enticing all-Premiership tie, Liverpool travel to Portsmouth. The other guaranteed top-flight contest is West Ham v Blackburn. There could also be a derby between West Bromwich and Birmingham, but first Reading and Torquay must be beaten.
Burton's fellow non-League survivors had mixed rewards. Nuneaton, if they defeat Middlesbrough, have what is, for them, an attractive derby at Coventry. "I am absolutely delighted because we have got a load of so-called Coventry rejects in the side," said Jez Murphy, who scored Nuneaton's last-minute equaliser on Saturday.
Tamworth were not given a sexy draw. Should they beat Stoke next week they will be at home to Barnsley or Walsall. On the positive side, they could become only the sixth non-League club to reach the fifth round. If they do, the television companies may finally acknowledge their achievements. They were again passed over yesterday when the BBC decided to screen Burton's replay at Old Trafford and Sky, less understandably, went for the replay between Leeds and Wigan. Each televised club receives £150,000.
Much happier were Orient, whose return for knocking out Fulham was another trip across the Thames to a Premiership club, Charlton. Port Vale will also be happy to shave £250,000 off their £1m debt through the short trip to Aston Villa. Colchester's reward for winning at Bramall Lane was Derby County at home. Leicester, having beaten Spurs, play Southampton.
FA Cup fourth-round draw
* Stoke City or Tamworth v Barnsley or Walsall
* Cheltenham Town or Chester City v Newcastle
* Coventry City v Nuneaton Borough or Middlesbrough
* West Bromwich Albion or Reading v Torquay United or Birmingham City
* Portsmouth v Liverpool
* Leicester City v Southampton
* Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal
* Aston Villa v Port Vale
* Brentford v Sunderland
* Manchester City v Wigan or Leeds United
* Millwall or Everton v Chelsea
* Preston North End v Crystal Palace
* West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
* Colchester United v Derby County
* Charlton Athletic v Leyton Orient
* Wolverhampton Wanderers v Burton Albion or Manchester United
(Ties to be played on weekend of 28-29 January)Reuse content