So here it is, arguably the most exciting weekend of the English football season – the FA Cup third round with Exeter City and Liverpool getting things underway on Friday evening.
Despite many claiming that the ‘magic’ of the cup doesn’t quite exist in the same way it once did, the competition still holds a special place in the heart of football fans up and down the country, and beyond.
Everyone has their favourite memory from the tournaments history, most of which are based around lower league clubs usurping superior opposition.
Whether it be the non-league triumph’s such as Sutton United’s over Coventry City in 1989 or Hereford United’s over Newcastle United in 1972, everyone has their story to tell.
Just last season, then Premier League leaders Chelsea were eliminated by League One Bradford City in the fourth round with then Champions Manchester City knocked out by Championship outfit Middlesbrough on the same day.
Roy of the Rovers
Personally, my go to memory comes from the 2000/01 season where Wycombe Wanderers beat Leicester City with the winning goal coming from substitute Roy Essandoh in the last minute of the game.
The Northern Irish striker signed for the Chairboys after his agent responded to an advert looking for a non-cup tied player which was listed on Ceefax – a now defunct teletext information service.
That moment is a perfect example of how this competition can fire players from near obscurity to the back pages of the national press. Though Essandoh never reached such highs in his career again, his name is etched in FA Cup folklore for the rest of time.
So who will write the headlines this weekend? The first of the thirty-two ties certainly has the potential for an upset with seven-times winners Liverpool, beset with injury, travelling to a League Two outfit with nothing to lose.
Exeter held Manchester United to a goalless draw eleven years ago, when they were actually a non-league outfit and it is those sides outside of the Football League that neutrals will be rooting for the most.
Eastleigh, who are the lowest ranked side remaining in the tournament will hope that they can capitalise on Bolton Wanderer’s woes as they host the Trotters on Saturday afternoon.
Doncaster Rovers have been in fine form since Darren Ferguson took charge and will fancy their chances against 2011 finalists Stoke City, while Oxford United will be keen to take their league form into their tie with a Swansea City side who find themselves at the wrong end of the top flight.
Elsewhere, League Two sides Wycombe and Dagenham and Redbridge face Premier League duo Aston Villa and Everton respectively while Manchester United and Chelsea have home ties against third tier outfits Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United.
Romantics amongst the betting punters may be tempted to back the Eastleigh/Wycombe double which is priced at just under 21/2 with Bet 365.
Who will provide the biggest shock of this season’s third round?