Nostalgia 0, showbiz 1
Phil Shaw on how those expecting a traditional draw will be shocked tonight; The new format sounds like a cross between National Lottery Live and Fantasy Football League
Monday 04 December 1995
Time was when a nation gathered around crackly transistors, awaiting the moment when the Light Programme (later Radio 2) crossed over to FA headquarters at Lancaster Gate. It was one of the great, enduring events of the football calendar.
Television eventually took over, tinkering with the time-honoured ritual of staging the draw on the Monday lunchtime after the second round. Now, seemingly undaunted by losing the final to ITV, the BBC has come up with a revamp designed to stop it looking like radio on TV.
Graham Kelly and Sir Bert Millichip will still be on hand. Given, however, that the new format sounds like a cross between National Lottery Live and Fantasy Football League, it may be only be a matter of time before Mystic Meg and Frank Skinner take their places. Even the FA is billing it as a "unique, 25-minute live show".
Within the normally austere setting of the Council Chamber, the Beeb has built a set which includes a giant screen and podium with a window, visible only to viewers, containing a perspex bowl. The numbered balls will be tipped into the bowl from the sacred velvet bag - a sop to nostalgia, perhaps - before being picked out by mechanical grabbers (no, not the Premier League chairmen).
Denis Law and Terry Venables, a duo with uncomfortable echoes of Saint and Greavsie, will announce each tie. Instant reactions will be gleaned from players and supporters in the audience. But suggestions that this new ball game amounts to a showbiz sell-out are denied by the FA's Claire Tomlinson.
"We wanted to keep the dignity and excitement of the draw while at the same time bringing it into the 20th century," she said. "In the past the most dramatic thing that happened was someone dropping a ball or getting a name wrong."
Among the guests at the show will be Ronnie Radford, who powered in Hereford's winner against Newcastle nearly 25 years ago, and Matthew Hanlan, Sutton United's goal hero against Coventry in 1989. If the 115th FA Cup is to produce a comparable giant-killer, he is going to have to come from the winners of the two all-non League replays.
Woking, second in the Vauxhall Conference, came from behind at Enfield, the Icis Premier Division leaders, with a goal by Clive Walker, the 38- year-old former Chelsea winger. The replay will be at Wycombe because of construction work at Kingfield. Neither club are strangers to third, or even fourth round, Woking having reached the last 32 as recently as 1991 when they lost 1-0 at Everton.
The same can not be said for Cinderford Town, last season's Hellenic League champions from the Forest of Dean, who are in the competition proper for the first time. Winning on Beazer Premier territory at Gravesend - whose last brush with the big time was a fourth-round replay defeat at Sunderland in 1963 - will be a tall order, but at least Cinders will go the bowl tonight.
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