Every fan of every football team in England looks forward to the point that they enter the FA Cup; whether that be in early January in the 3rd round, mid-November in the 1st round, or even earlier in the qualifying rounds. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of a Premier League side or a National League side, you have the same feeling of excitement about entering the same competition.
Year-on-year, over 700 teams will compete at some stage, each with different visions of how the cup will help them on and off the pitch. The big teams will dream of lifting the trophy in May, earning all the critical acclaim and financial rewards that comes with that. For the non-league sides, it will be the prize money they receive for each win which means they can pay their staff. To put that into perspective, the winners of an extra preliminary game this season would earn £2,250, and the winners of the final are set to receive £3.6 million, and that £2,250 will arguably do more for the team that receives it than the £3.6m does for the winners.
It is a competition that serves a purpose to each team in it, and provides football fans with some the best stories that the sport has to offer. Every 3rd round weekend we are bombarded with the tales of Hereford and Coventry, the David and Goliath stories of the past. But these stories still happen in many forms, across all of the rounds. Take for example Metropolitan Police, who qualified for the first ‘proper’ round for the first time, beating Havant & Waterlooville (who famously played Liverpool in the 3rd round in 2008). Other famous examples are Lincoln City and Sutton United, who both went deep into the competition whilst in the National League. We may know the old stories of ‘cupsets’ well, but more are written in the competition every year, whether we know about them or not, further playing into the clichéd “magic of the cup”.
Whether they are aware of it or not, every team and fan in England is linked by this competition. World Cup winners and part-timers become one and the same in the eyes of those watching them. That is what makes the oldest club competition so special then, now, and forever.