Soccer / watford
The Magic of The Cup: 3 Games to Watch This Weekend
The English FA Cup is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious knockout cup in all of football. In recent years there have been question marks over whether or not the cup still holds the kind of significance that it once did. Critics will claim that the plethora of foreign imports into the big English clubs don't understand the history of the competition and that in general teams are now more focused on simply maintaining their status in the EPL and ensuring they maintain the financial windfall from TV rights than on having a go at actually winning something! Both are probably fair arguments but for those clubs and players lower down the footballing pyramid, the FA cup still presents a unique opportunity for a magical 15 minutes of fame when they come up against some of the giants of football. The 3rd round proper of the FA Cup will be played across this weekend and sees the first appearance of the top 44 clubs in England who ply their trade in the Premier League and Championship respectively. Looking for that monumental giant-killing moment will be 20 other sides from League 1 and below who have managed to make it this far. For me, one of the best parts of watching these teams play is to reminisce about the history both of the clubs themselves and the players who find themselves plying their trade in the lower leagues. This year's 3rd round sees the following ties that offer such opportunities and might yet also involve an upset or 2. Blackpool v Arsenal Blackpool who now find themselves in the mid-table doldrums of League 1 were once winners of the FA Cup. In fact, more than that their performance in 1953 final and in particular that of their most famous player, Sir Stanley Mathews, will go down in history as one of the greatest individual performances and comebacks in the competition. In more recent times, Blackpool found themselves in the Premier League during the 2009-10 season but the relegations that followed also coincided with the club going through severe financial hardship to the point that just days before the start of the 2014-15 season, Blackpool had just 8 players on their books! It's great to see that a club with such a rich history has managed to survive and is now rebuilding in the 3rd flight of English football and a performance today would mean so much to their diehard fans. Spearing during his time at Liverpool source Their current squad includes the likes of Jay Spearing, a player who came through the ranks at Liverpool and made 55 appearances for the current league leaders. 10 years ago he was part of a Liverpool side that dismantled Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League, now he plays in front of 3000 people at Bloomfield Road. Perhaps he'll have a point to prove to those clubs in the higher divisions who choose not to take him on after his departure from Anfield. . Blackpool's form going into this match is pretty woeful having won just once in their last 4 weeks of fixtures, a result which came against non-league Solihull Moors and booked them a place in the 3rd round. As for Arsenal, they have been putting lesser sides to the sword at home this season but they are without an away win in any competition since November. While their performances in the league have been slipping in recent years, Arsene Wenger maintained a superb record in this competition, will Emery be looking to do the same? Fulham v Oldham 2nd bottom in the EPL but still 59 places above their visitors in the league this should be a simple encounter for Fulham, right? Should you find yourself in a pub quiz situation, it's always worth remembering that back in 1992, Oldham were one of the original sides in the newly formed Premier League. At the same time, Fulham were plying their trade in the old 3rd division, how times have changed ........ While Oldham have never won the FA Cup they did come close to shocking Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in the semi-finals of 1990. Worse yet, Oldham's home ground Boundary Park is renowned as being the coldest in England, sitting as it does on top of a hill making it the 3rd highest ground in the country. Fulham I would imagine will be desperate to avoid having to make a mid-January trip up to the inhospitable North - Winter is coming! Baxter playing for Sheffield United source Of the current Oldham squad, Jose Baxter might be one to watch. Another youngster from Liverpool although this time he came through the ranks at Everton, Baxter was a consistent goalscorer from midfield for Sheffield United before failing a drugs test in 2015 although he still maintains his drink was spiked. His career has somewhat stalled since then but he has the kind of touch and technique to be able to pull something out of the hat for his new side. Fulham have undoubtedly improved over the last few games with Ranieri's side tightening up in defence and taking a crucial 3 points from Huddersfield last weekend that keeps them in touch with the other sides battling relegation. The big question here is do they really want/need a cup run or would they be better focusing on Premier League survival? Oldham have won their last 2 league games and are in the hunt for a play-off place. Perhaps a cup run would be just the kind of impetuous they need to finish their season strongly, they couldn't pull off this upset though, could they? Woking v Watford The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the level of opposition has continued to drop as the post has continued. Woking find themselves in the National League South which is the 6th tier of English football. These types of teams are relying on part-timers who might train a couple of times a week and play at the weekend while also working as the local butcher to play alongside a lot of younger players on loan from the football league to bolster their squad. Money is, of course, the major difference here with Watford's captain and top earner Troy Deeney taking home about 100k a week in comparison to the full-time players at Woking who will struggle to earn 1% of that if they are lucky! However, this doesn't mean that this will be a cake walk for Watford by any stretch of the imagination and Woking have a history of upsetting bigger clubs in this competition. Back in 1991 Woking trounced 5 times winners of the cup and a founding member of the football league West Bromwich Albion. The man scoring a hattrick for Woking that day (Tim Buzaglo) also worked as a local estate agent and played international cricket for Gibraltar! These are the kind of life stories and individuals that the FA Cup has a habit of bringing to our attention and in all honesty, they tend to be far more interesting than the PR whipped Premier League zombies who stand in front of the cameras doing post-match interviews and uttering the same soundbites ad nauseam. source While it's difficult to pick out a player to watch for Woking (that's how unknown their squad is) you might if you are an avid follower of the English Premier League recognise a member of their coaching staff if not to look at then certainly to hear him! Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler is part of a management duo at The Laithwaite Community Stadium alongside Alan Dowson. Can Tyler's 5 decades of experience working in sports media help him to mastermind the downfall of a Premier League club? Woking come into this match having won their last 7 league games and now find themselves just 2 points of the top of the table. Watford's form this season has been a little patchier and the Hornets have been eliminated at the 3rd round stage in 11 out of the last 20 seasons. If you watch just 1 match this weekend in the cup or fancy a speculative bet then this is the game I would go for. You can get a double chance on Woking or a draw at 5.1 with betfair exchange (shame this competition isn't covered by betscorum). Good luck to all the minnows looking to pull off a shock this weekend!