Sanctity of third-round ritual desecrated by the bell

THE MOST irritating thing happened last Sunday. Somebody came to the front door during the draw for the third round of the FA Cup.

At first, I thought I was hearing things. Frankly, I find it inconceivable that anyone should be outside of their own house during the 10 most titillating minutes of the football season. That they should be disturbing mine is quite some way beyond the pale.

It was the culmination of a rather trying day. The first Sunday for about three months when the family and professional diaries were blank... the prospect of an afternoon of undiluted decadence - feet up, a bottle of red, West Ham-Sheffield Wednesday between cat-naps ... and then the draw.

Only, my wife woke up ill. I don't blame her for this. She didn't do it deliberately. She puts a lot into life and her body rebelled. But, rather than time her indisposition to coincide with an unwanted Sunday lunch at great aunt X's (from which it would have been a joy to ring up and excuse oneself), she left me alone with the kids on this most promisingly blank of days.

Still, I survived ... just, did lunch, caught most of the relevant excitement from Upton Park (albeit without the bottle) and - credit where credit's due - she rose from her bed and had us all round the tea table in time for the Cup draw.

Then, about eight ties in, came the knock at the door. Naturally, my instinctive assumption was that someone else would get it. No one disturbs ME during the FA Cup draw. But my children are five and two; they can't manage the latch and, horror of horrors, my pale wife was in her dressing- gown and glasses. Without her contact lenses in, she's reluctant to greet the postman if he knocks at 8am; at 6 o'clock on a Sunday evening ... no chance.

So, for the first time in FA Cup history, I missed some of the third- round draw. Since the age of seven, it has always been accompanied, for me, by the back of an envelope and a blunt pencil so that, after it has finished, I can just stare at the scrawled fixtures, pick out the juicy ones and dream about what might happen. In 1999, shamefully forgetting the patience, kindness and care I had shown to my ailing dearly beloved all day, I thrust that pencil at her and snapped: "Copy it down. Don't miss one."

The caller was for her. Confusion reigned. And, yes, of course, she missed a couple. The recap (which I've always considered boring, laid on for feeble folk who can't keep up) became necessary. I was annoyed.

I tell the story because, in retrospect, I'm rather glad of my annoyance. Unintentionally, it demonstrated an unchanging, unquenched, child-like ardour for this most wonderful of English football traditions and it demonstrated that, in my heart at least, the Cup is alive and well.

I had been worried that, like an adolescent in the run-up to his 15th Christmas, I might wake up to find it's not the same any more. Can the draw ever match the days when, at 12.30pm on a Monday lunch-time, we had to pull out of the Jimmy Young programme to hear Bryon Butler's gloriously gravelly introduction from Lancaster Gate? Can the competition absorb the insult that, in recent years, certain managers have used Cup weekend to rest their stars? The third round before Christmas? And what about the whole Manchester United affair?

Well, yes. God bless it, it has survived the lot. The draw with Gabby Yorath was terrific, thank you very much. Half-strength teams (still, mercifully, a tiny minority) are simply missing the point; it's their loss. Play the third round on 1 July (they probably will one day) and I'll still be there. Manchester United? OK, it is a shame; but my uncontrived emotion last Sunday reinforced the truth in that hideous cliche: "The FA Cup is bigger than any single team".

On the train back from Everton on Saturday, I got talking with some Dover Athletic players (nine unbeaten after their 2-1 win at Southport). Buoyant at their lengthening run of success and excited by their proximity to the top of the Nationwide Conference, they were full of themselves. One issue impinged on their upbeat mood. Tomorrow was the big Cup draw and they weren't in it.

Pained at the very memory, Dover's engaging Irish captain told of how they'd inexplicably lost a replay to their supposed inferiors, Worthing. Non-League Goliaths slain before they could convert into third-round Davids. Manchester United weren't in the third-round draw ... nor, just as significantly, were Dover.

Their very inclusion in the same sentence. That's what is so great about the thing. The fourth-round draw will be on in my house on Sunday 12 December. You're NOT welcome.

l Peter Drury is an ITV football commentator

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup