GUEST COLUMN

Why the FA Cup remains one of the most magical – and unpredictable – tournaments in football

I have so many fond memories of watching FA Cup games of years gone by, and thirty years on, it remains a privilege to present the BBC’s coverage for those first few rounds, writes Dan Walker

Friday 09 November 2018 12:21
Comments
There is nothing like the magic of the Cup
There is nothing like the magic of the Cup

I love the FA Cup. Always have, always will. As a boy I sat mesmerised as Des Lynam talked over a packed team bus taking about half-a-day to reach Wembley. Now I get to cover it. I've got a lot of time for the early rounds and we've had some magic moments in recent seasons. Warrington Town, Blyth Spartans, Salford City and Eastleigh have all produced the goods and I can't wait to see what Haringey Borough FC, The Met Police or others can do this weekend.

I have so many fond memories of watching FA Cup games of years gone by. My dad was a huge Spurs fan and I can still see him jumping around the room in anguish when John Sillett’s Coventry saw off the mighty Tottenham Hotspur in 1987. I memorised the Chas & Dave cup final song that year and spent much of the first half gently chanting it to myself “and don’t forget Ozzy, specially cos he, back in 81 he had his dream come true”.

The following year I became mildly obsessed with Matthew Hanlan after he scored and sent the holders Coventry crashing out to lowly Sutton United.

Thirty years on, it remains a privilege to present the BBC’s coverage for those first few rounds. I loved it a few years ago when Martin Keown claimed he could ‘smell the fear’ as the Exeter City players got off the bus at Warrington Town. It was amazing to watch Alan Shearer sit in the Blyth Spartans dressing room and tell them that one of them could be a hero before one of them - Jarrett Rivers - listened and they knocked out Hartlepool United. His mum was so proud she let him off his shift in the family newsagents the next morning... that’s the FA Cup for you.

Warrington stunned Exeter in 2014

Not all my memories are quite so positive. During a live broadcast at Wrexham back in 2014 I thought I saw a stain on the club’s honours board and made the somewhat strange decision to wipe it off. As I rubbed away, the name of Dixie McNeil disappeared before my eyes! Live on TV, in front of the chief executive, I had just removed the name of the club’s player of the year from 1980. Not my finest FA Cup moment.

I’ve been to the top of the arch at Wembley, interviewed weeping fans and managers, been to 14 Cup finals and even reported on a fire on a pitch! The plastic surface at Hyde United didn’t respond very well to a pre-match flare and was significantly scorched.

I love the travel. For the past few years we’ve always had a game on the Friday night and then we’ll present Football Focus from a different game the following day. This year it’s only a short hop from Haringey (where we’ll bring you their game against AFC Wimbledon) to Imber Court - home of the Met Police FC - and our ‘studio’ for Saturday lunchtime.

That is a much simpler journey than the Hartlepool to Weston Super Mare trip I made a few years ago. We left the north east at 11.10pm with a 291-mile journey to south Wales ahead of us. The M5 was particularly painful that night and we arrived at the hotel about 90 minutes before they started serving breakfast.

Imber Court, home of the Met Police

This season we’ve been broadcasting a game from each round on the Red Button and BBC Sport website but now we’re at the stage with Haringey Borough of the Isthmian League Premier Division will get their chance to shine under the Friday night lights. Wimbledon have a decent record in recent seasons in the FA cup but are struggling in League 1 and will be desperate to avoid falling at the first hurdle. It’ll be interesting to see if we can smell anything when they get off the bus at Coles Park Stadium this weekend.

Follow every round of the 2018-19 FA Cup on the BBC across TV, radio and online.

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