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.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
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

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

C# .NET Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript HTML, CSS) Finance

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment