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
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas