Unusual suspects on brink of glory

Glenn Moore looks forward to this weekend's intriguing FA Cup sixth-round ties

The most romantic FA Cup in living memory, or the poorest? It is all a question of perspective. This weekend's quarter-finals are certainly one of the most unusual in the old pot's 126-year history. With only two contenders having lifted the trophy in the last 50 years the pedigree is more mongrel than thoroughbred.

However, we could yet have a final featuring Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli, Franck Leboeuf, Mark Hughes, Emerson, Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli. The worldwide television audience which will be tuning in on 17 May would be thrilled by that international collection.

Or they could be puzzled by the sight of Portsmouth against either Wrexham or Chesterfield. That unlikely prospect would be the first final without a top-flight team involved. Romantic? Or anticlimatic?

The only sixth-round tie being played on schedule today has romance aplenty. Derby County's tie with Middlesbrough will be the Baseball Ground's last FA Cup tie after 101 years and 137 ties, it even hosted two semi-finals at the turn of the century. The ghosts of Bloomer, Doherty and Carter will be watching as Ravanelli, Juninho, Igor Stimac and Aljosa Asanovic seek to become the first Italian, Brazilian and Croats respectively to play in the final.

The match will also be Martin Taylor's first for Derby since breaking his left leg against Southend in October 1994. He replaces Russell Hoult who has been dropped after conceding 16 goals in five games, six against Middlesbrough in midweek.

Taylor, 30, has played half-a-dozen matches on loan to Crewe this season but was so depressed after them he engaged a sports psychologist to lift his confidence. He has since been playing well in the reserves but Jim Smith was still asked if his decision was "a gamble''.

"Not as big a gamble as playing Russell," the County manager said. "On Wednesday night his positional sense for the first two goals made him look as if he had never played in goal before. I'm doing Russell a favour. No one wants to come out but if you are having a bad run it's curtains for the team."

Bottom-placed Boro have not won away in the Premiership since September but in the cups they have been as different as Danny and Kenneth Baker. They have won all nine matches, three of them away from the Riverside. They also have goalkeeper problems with Mark Schwarzer cup-tied. Emerson is injured while Derby have Dean Sturridge suspended.

Middlesbrough, despite the goals of Camsell, Mannion and Clough, have never gone beyond this stage. Nor have Wrexham while Chesterfield had never even reached it before. The other five survivors have all won the competition but only Sir Bert Millichip's generation are likely to remember them all.

Lawrie Sanchez won the cup for Wimbledon in 1988 and David Webb for Chelsea in 1970 but after that you have to go back to the days of sepia prints, Movietone pictures, cloth caps and Woodbines. Derby and Portsmouth won either side of the war while Sheffield Wednesday last won the Cup in the reign of George V in 1935 - they received it from his son, Edward, who would soon be crowned, then abdicate.

Wednesday, beaten once in 22 matches and not since September at home are beginning to fancy their chances this year. Opponents Wimbledon, who have already played six more games than Wednesday, are showing signs of tiring - not that anyone would dare write them off. Kevin Pressman can be expected to clear the ball rather quicker than usual, in the league game at Selhurst Efan Ekoku dispossesed him and scored after two minutes.

Hillsbrough will host the BBC's live match tomorrow, those with access to Sky can warm up with Portsmouth-Chelsea while Welsh viewers can follow Wrexham's trip to Chesterfield. The winners will be the first team from the third level (now Second Division) to reach the last four since Plymouth in 1984.

Wrexham could even become the second team, after Cardiff in 1927, to take the FA Cup out of England. If they did so, they would not be allowed to represent England in the European Cup-Winners' Cup, the runners-up would qualify instead.

Portsmouth may be a better bet to be the first winners from outside the elite since Sunderland in 1973. As the First Division's form team they will not fear Chelsea, especially as Zola is beginning to suffer from the pace and frequency of English games. Terry Venables at Wembley?

Meanwhile, in the Premiership, Manchester United could go seven points clear and Middlesbrough be cast eight points from safety.

After losing 4-0 at home to Tottenham in midweek the last thing Peter Reid needed was United's midweek demolition of Porto. Sunderland pushed United close in the FA Cup last year but lost 5-0 at Old Trafford in December and, having scored once in seven games, must fear the worst.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

Teachers required for Cambridge Primary positions Jan 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in Cambridge...

British Sign Language Teaching Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education are lookin...

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain