Saturday, 5 January 2013

London: FA Cup 3rd Round: Magical normality for 90 minutes at Crystal Palace, West Ham and Chelsea

"War! What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin'," once sang famous soul funksters War.  
   Portsmouth football fans might just shrug their shoulders. After winning the FA Cup in 1939, 'Pompey' held the famous trophy until 1946 but without having to win a single match. The UK government had ordered football's cessation at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
   However, as war and misery spread, the authorities allowed a limited resumption of London challenge matches to boost morale. Royal Air Force Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes were said to have twitched in north London skies as crowds of over 30,000 enjoyed matches at Wembley Stadium.
   Today, (Saturday, 5 January), at 4.50pm, millions will eagerly focus their attention on the re-assuringly magical trundle of results emerging from matches played across the country in the 3rd Round proper of the FA Cup.

Glorious humiliation
Don't believe the hokum, humbug and hype written about 'the decline of the FA Cup'. The oldest football competition in the world - founded in 1872 - remains close to the heart of football fans in England and Wales. 
   'Proper' refers to this traditionally special stage when top flight clubs from the Premiership and Championship enter the competition. Hoping to meet, beat and gloriously humiliate them are lower league clubs from small towns who have battled through earlier qualifying rounds that began in late August. Much attention will this afternoon focus on the battle of Hastings United as their part-time footballers venture north hoping to put mightier Middlesbrough's full-time professionals to the sword.

Mighty oaks
Thankfully, the FA Cup 3rd Round is a sign we are not at war. But we are still in the mire - austerity, unemployment and recession - of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s Depression. 
  So, the exciting tick this afternoon of 3rd round FA Cup results means the welcome distraction provided by this great day in the sporting calendar. Across London, thousands will flock to watch West Ham battle Manchester United, Chelsea scrap with Southampton, and Charlton Athletic harangue Huddersfield Town. 
   Up and coming Crystal Palace hope to topple the mighty Premiership oaks of Stoke City, a skilful  yet ruggedly physical team boasting some of the tallest footballers in the land. Stoke supporters are also reckoned to be the loudest.
 Magical normality for 90 minutes, at least. How the most raucous could be silenced, how the mighty could fall...

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, January 2013

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