Up for the Cup

January 1, 2000

The Third Round of the FA Cup is the most anticipated and looked forward to round of the competition.

It is when the so called big guns enter the fray. Premier League clubs are likely to fall at what, for them, is the first hurdle and clubs that have made it through from the lower and non Leagues want to be seen as the season’s giant killers by progressing as far as they can.

The accolade of giant killing is good for football but for the clubs concerned, progress to further rounds means decent pay days from high attendances, prize money and the prospect of fees for televised live games. In financial terms, a lucrative cup run can often make the season for lower league clubs because generally speaking the income from cup games is above what is budgeted for and can be used to pay off debts or offset losses in other areas. If the financial position of the respective club is stable, the extra income may be made available to invest in football development andlor in infrastructure.

A quick scan of the draw as posted on BBC Sport shows that just eight of the 24 clubs in League Two have made it through, along with three from non League football. The dream of clubs at our level is to be drawn against Premier League opposition. Some would argue that an away draw against a top club is the one to get for a number of very good reasons but for me I think that a home draw against Premier opposition presents the opportunity for many loyal supporters to view top international and world class players in their own respective back yards; not only to view, but also witness an unexpected upset.

Four League Two clubs, including Bristol Rovers, have hit the jackpot in this season’s Third Round by being drawn against top tier opposition. Of the four, three are from the West Country with near neighbours

Cheltenham Town coming up against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and Swindon Town facing Wigan Athletic at the County Ground. Gillingham are also in the mix, and take on Stoke City at the Priestfield Stadium. All three clubs are currently going very well in the League at

this time and at the time of writing. Were it not for massive efforts of Fleetwood Town, Tamworth and Salisbury City, Bristol Rovers would be the lowest placed club still in the competition, not that it pleases me to say so.

There is no doubt that our friends from North Glos will be enjoying their football at the moment and will be looking forward in earnest to their trip to the capital. The official Cheltenham web site gives the latest ticket information and tells us that the 5,000 White Hart Lane away allocation is completely sold out and that Spurs are making no more available. A great effort, then, and more travelling fans to the game than Cheltenham normally get to home League matches.

Cheltenham ended 2011 with a solid 1-0 home win against Rotherham. Manager Mark Yates, who to my mind has worked wonders this term at Whaddon Road, thought that his team were not at their best on the night and had to grind out the victory. I would take that and the three points and clean sheet that went with it. Solid seems to be the operative word at second placed Cheltenham.

Swindon overcame the rare disappointment of defeat on Boxing Day to register a last gasp winner at Northampton on New Year’s Eve. Manager Di Canio described the win as amazing, on account of the fact that Town were reduced to ten men I would guess; expect a County

Ground sell out for the Wigan Tie. Swindon Youth are also on the official web site news postings after progressing to the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup following a win against Birmingham. Paul Bodin’s young guns face Manchester City in Round Four. Worth noting that our own Bristol Rovers U-18’s Youth side top the Regional Youth League currently and victories thus far include a 5-1 thrashing of Town on the opening day of the season.

Gillingham entertain a Stoke City side managed by former Bristol Rovers favourite Tony Pullis. Just about all in the game acknowledge the first class work that Tony has put in at the Potteries club. He has an incredible appetite for the game and has demonstrated a high level of leadership, coaching and tactical skills as a manager.

The Gills, surprisingly, slipped up at Dagenham on New Year’s Eve going down 2-1. Skipper Andy Frampton posted on the official web and said that Gillingham gave a good account of themselves for the first 20 minutes of the game, doing what they had planned to do, but what happened after that was one of those things that sometimes happen in football. Tell us about it, Andy!

Good luck to Fleetwood at home to 0llie’s Blackpool, Tamworth at Everton, and Salisbury at Sheffield United. Nice little earners for all three, and a great day for their fans; enjoy.


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