Up for the Cup (replay)

November 28, 2007

[image1]Up for the Cup!

Good evening to all at the memorial Stadium for a FA Cup first round replay against Leyton Orient. For the second time this season we welcome the supporters of the famous old East London Club and wish them a safe journey home after the game.

Orient having been going reasonably well this season and although it is comparatively early days, we did very well to cancel out a first half goal at Brisbane Road. Our second half performance with a bit of a following wind was very pleasing and the equalising goal always looked on the cards. Yet another excellent delivery from a corner and a determination and bravery about us to get in where it counts has brought on the prospect of an exciting replay.

The reward is a home second round tie against non league opposition and a real chance of going into the hat with the bigger clubs at the third round proper stage. Last season’s trip to Derby County at the very decent Pride Park Stadium was a memorable day for our thousands of travelling Bristol Rovers fans. We played very well up there against a team who just a few months later were to gain promotion to the Premier League. I am sure that the confidence we gained from the game contributed significantly to our own promotion success.

The pull of the FA Cup is still very strong for many clubs and their followers. The competition is renowned for the number of clubs from lower leagues that take part and the time it takes from the early qualifying rounds to the final tie. A whole season in fact. The final itself is watched by millions world wide. Progress to the later stages is always an exciting prospect. Up for the Cup is a bit of an old fashioned phrase but it has a certain ring about it that goes back many through the many generations of footballing fanatics.

We can boast two quarter final appearances against Newcastle and Fulham respectively and we recorded our highest ever attendance against Preston North End in the 3-3 home draw in January 1960 before going down in the replay in front of another bumper crowd at Deepdale a few days later. Those of us who were privileged to witness the mauling of the somewhat invincible Manchester United side the 1955-56 season will never ever forget it. Just under 36,000 fans at Eastville thought they had died and gone to heaven and I was one of them. I have never given up on the idea that such an occasion will come round again. You never know in football.

All was in contrast to our first ever encounter in the Cup. Can you possibly imagine October 1895, a home draw against neighbours Warmley and we were beaten by two goals to nil? In fairness Warmley were a very useful Western League Division One outfit at the time who were to finish the season as League Champions. Times certainly do change. The clock moved very quickly in football in those days and by 1897 we were to come up against Southampton. Only six years later in 1903 we were to
face the emerging Woolwich Arsenal holding them to two 1-1 draws before going down by only 1-0 at Tottenham’ s White Hart Lane.

Most seasons a team from the lower reaches enjoys a good run. Of course the League programme is vitally important and will always be the bread and butter but success in the FA Cup can act as a springboard for a good run in the League. Get right behind our boys tonight you for just never know what may follow. Up for the Cup; Come on Rovers come on you Blues.

Ken Masters

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