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The grand old FA Cup soldiers on in the face of so much adversity | Football


One of the most famous FA Cup goals in history, the surface-to-air screamer Ronnie Radford scored for Hereford United against Newcastle on an Edgar Street quagmire 48 years ago will almost certainly be included in no end of TV montages this weekend. The thunderous strike and the pitch invasion it prompted are the stuff of third-round legend, invariably called upon to do the heavy lifting as broadcasters attempt to suffuse more modern day David v Goliath match-ups with a sense of misty-eyed romance and magic that is no longer really there.

This season, third-round weekend has taken a further hammering, with the pandemic ensuring any Radford-esque thunderbolts scored against big Premier League sides by yer butchers, yer panel-beaters or yer junior solicitors from modestly sized provincial practices will be greeted by the kind of eerie near-silence that will not make for particularly good montage in decades to come. While crowds might have been down in recent years, who among us ever thought the fabled “magic of the Cup” would stretch to making them completely disappear. But while the wisdom of staging this year’s competition has been questioned for various reasons relating to safety, an already concertinaed schedule, and the apparent futility of it all, there is something bordering on the heroic about the grand old competition’s apparent determination to soldier on. Even in the face of so much unprecedented adversity and indifference, we are left with the possibility of seeing some potentially gripping dramas unfold.

Of the four non-league sides left, Chorley find themselves thrust into the role of unlikely favourites against a Derby side that has been forced to send a team of kids to fulfil their fixture. Meanwhile on Merseyside, both Liverpool and Everton are to be commended for their community-spirited work in joining forces to help the minnows of sixth-tier side Marine heap embarrassment on José Mourinho. Elsewhere, Boreham Wood and Stockport entertain Millwall and West Ham respectively, in potential giant-slayings where no amount of rested big-name stars or silence from the stands will detract too much from victory for either National League side.

While Shrewsbury may have to forfeit their game against Southampton after it was postponed following a Covid outbreak, it has unwittingly added an extra air of intrigue to Aston Villa’s game against Liverpool on Friday night. Despite a “significant” outbreak affecting at least 10 Aston Villa players, the tie will go ahead with the hosts ready to field a make-do-and-mend team of whey-faced youngsters with little or no first-team experience. Aspiring stars of the future going toe to toe with the English champions – banana skins quite literally don’t come with much more potential. It should, of course, go without saying that The Fiver wishes all those who are affected by this pernicious virus well.

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Join Barry Glendenning from 7.45pm GMT for Aston Villa Youth 0-5 Liverpool.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“This story is simply part of the identity of Tas. It is true that our only Bundesliga season was five and a half decades ago, but we are always a topic nationwide. We don’t really have to do anything for this advertising” – Tasmania Berlin owner Almir Numic on why he is desperate for Schalke (30 top-flight games without a win) to beat Hoffenheim so his club (31 without a win in 1965-66) can continue to flog tat boasting that they are officially the worst Bundesliga club ever.

Tasmania’s logo at the entrance of the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark in Berlin.
Tasmania’s logo at the entrance of the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark in Berlin. Photograph: Hayoung Jeon/EPA

FIVER LETTERS

“In relation to the magnificent tantrum thrown by Didier Lamkel Zé (yesterday’s Fiver), it seems The Fiver needs educating in the wonderful world of Belgian football. Referring to Anderlecht as a rival for Antwerp and Beerschot as ‘another club’ is a bit like referring to Carlisle as being my beloved Newport County’s rival and Cardiff ‘another club’. Despite this … more Belgian football news please!” – Dave Lloyd.

“With reference to Ed Taylor’s missive about the German-style beer available in a certain Thai beer hall (yesterday’s Fiver letters) I can confirm it is indeed German-style, as Per Alan Raybould’s initial assertion. It is, apparently, manufactured following German rules, and comes in several styles including a Pilsner, Weissbeer, and a darker one too. Here the comparison stops. While the beer has the requisite ingredients, and the hall has ‘entertainment’ in the broadest sense, that is where the similarity ends. The end product is a pale shadow of the beer (and venue) it tries to emulate. Which, for Fiver readers, is perhaps the best we can expect” – Mike Anthony.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day prize is … Mike Anthony.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter is reportedly in a stable condition after being admitted to a Swiss hospital.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche wants fast-tracked Covid vaccinations in football. “I appreciate some people will be surprised by that,” he yapped. “I’m told if you are vaccinated, you don’t need to keep testing. So therefore if the testing diminishes, that money could be used for a much better cause [such as funding the NHS].”

Burnley, earlier.
Burnley, earlier. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Scott Parker reckons Aleksandar Mitrovic is really, really sorry for breaking rules at a New Year’s knees-up and would understand if the FA introduces bans for such behaviour. “Of course that is an option,” he sighed. “We’re living in a moment that is very serious. A lot of people are losing their lives.”

West Ham skipper Gilly Flaherty wants the Arsenal and Manchester City players who hotfooted it to Dubai during the WSL winter break and then sparked a series of positive tests to apologise. “I really don’t like the arrogance that the money and wages have brought into it,” she said. “Players need to remain humble.”

The Hammers, meanwhile, have offloaded £45m impulse buy Sébastien Haller to Ajax for £20m. Backslaps all round!

Manchester City in quite-literally-buying trophies shock: owner Sheikh Mansour has purchased the oldest existing version of the FA Cup at auction.

And Mikel Arteta appears to be a satirical genius if this summation of Mesut Özil’s Arsenal days is anything to go by. “What Mesut has done at the club is unquestionable,” he honked. “What he has done is there for the records, for the history of the club, and his contribution I think nobody can discuss that.” A loan to Fenerbahce beckons.

STILL WANT MORE?

The magic of Marine is the magic that will get us through these next few months. Proper writer Frank Cottrell Boyce is looking forward to a little loveliness on Merseyside amid the gloom.

Next stop: the Marine Travel Arena.
Next stop: the Marine Travel Arena. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ten things to look out for in the FA Cup third-round, including reference to Sam Allardyce’s lucky stolen replica pig mascot back in his Blackpool days.

Big Phil Neville and the art of falling into ever more lucrative jobs. By Jonathan Liew.

It’s all Mee, Mee, Mee when it comes to Burnley, according to Ben McAleer.

Two dismal incidents over the festive season show racism is a problem at every level of Brazilian football, writes Tom Sanderson.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!





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