Suddenly, all the elite are suffering from the old FA Cup virus again. Gone down with it like some super-bug. Say what you will about the cost, length of time in building the thing, and whether it should have even been constructed in the first place, but Wemb-er-ley does have them slavering in a manner that the Millennium Stadium never managed.
Not that the A5 from Tamworth was ever likely to lead there, even before yesterday. On one of those days designed for this stage of the competition, the good folk of Tamworth trudged through to this anachronism of a ground with hope, if not expectation, in their hearts.
Nature had prepared the stage well. The elements (the ground was wrapped in a grey blanket of persistent cold drizzle). The slope (a significant one). The pitch (whose idiosyncratic nature was not dissimilar to that found within the Snow Dome across the road). And there was a piece of FA Cup genealogy which had thrust Mark Cooper, son of Leeds' Terry, into FA Cup prominence.
Combined, there was just a chance that this Conference club, from back-room staff manager "Degsy" Bond and kit manager "Buster" Belford who have both been here an eternity, to the rather more exotic and recent acquisition, Portuguese goalkeeper Jose Veiga, formerly of Sporting Club Olhanense, could have secured a famous victory.
It was not to be; not after City scored twice in the five minutes before the interval. The Canaries' "very professional" approach, according to their manager, Peter Grant, saw his team through. After Tamworth spurned early opportunities, a brace apiece from the former Coventry pair Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin secured an emphatic win for Norwich. Tamworth's Kyle Storer scored the best goal, but far too late to influence affairs.
Dublin, who played for Aston Villa in the last final to be played at the old Wembley, is now 39, but nothing if not durable. His manager added: "He's a fantastic example to young players. A credit to his profession and a big player for us." Dublin, Huckerby & Co did their job efficiently enough against a team who train three days a week and ensured that Norwich advanced to the fourth round for only the second time in the last decade. But Tamworth, bottom of the Conference, can console themselves with £200,000 from TV money and prize-money for reaching this stage.
As for the match itself, well, you'll have to excuse this observer if the facts aren't necessarily accurate. From a vantage point on temporary scaffolding, in one corner of the ground, it's a trifle problematic when a BBC box for pundits and presenters blocks your view of one goal. Ah, but that's the beauty of the FA Cup which last season saw Tamworth hold Stoke away. Yesterday, the Conference side tore into their visitors more like FA Cup tigers than Lambs.
Norwich goalkeeper Paul Gallacher affected a fine save from John McGrath, a Simon Heslop drive cleared the bar, and then Steve Burton surged through, but the cries of the Shed choir, Tamworth's most vocal supporters, died on their lips as his effort rolled wide.
There was some typically wicked FA Cup mirth. Norwich supporters spied Iain Dowie in the aforesaid BBC box, and decided that "On the dole" was an amusing refrain. Soon, though, they had a more relevant cause for merriment when Dublin headed home from Huckerby's cross.
Two minutes later, the pair combined again. Dublin's header set up Huckerby to despatch a low shot past Veiga. The contest was dead. Just to make certain, early in the second period a long throw was flicked into the box by Dublin for Lee Croft, who offered up an invitation for Huckerby, who beat Veiga. Dublin was on target again when a Tom Kemp aberration allowed him to steal in behind the home rearguard and hoist the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.
Tamworth's Storer unleashed a splendid shot which curled away from Paul Gallacher and into the net off the far post to ensure the visitors maintained their concentration.
It would be tempting to suggest that Grant is now contemplating another final appearance after his journey there as West Ham United's assistant manager last season. Relief that potential embarrassment had been successfully navigated was his emotion.Reuse content