If you needed a brutal reminder that summer had scurried off like a miscreant child over whom you have absolutely no power, it’s the arrival of the (Proper) First Round of the FA Cup. In our misty-eyed nostalgia, we remember a time where we’d all buy into “the magic of the cup”, because getting to this point was a hard slog. And for all the knocks in life, there is no level of disappointment that quite equates to the feeling of knowing you’d ballsed up a chance to play a League team in the first round because you’d lost at home to Nuneaton Borough. In a replay.
Now, for Boro’ at least, that’s not an issue. We’re now bigger boys, where a ticket to the first round is left on the door for us. It’s now some time since we went into a First Round game gunning for a prize scalp; instead, we’re in the line of sight of plucky non-league underdogs like this weekend’s opponents, Maidstone United. And the Stones are much like Stourbridge last season; both at a similar level of the pyramid. The Glassboys posed little problem in the end (the only team we beat in December 2013, if you were wondering), but can we expect the same this year?
We reckon we should be quite alright.
We actually have quite a decent record in the Cup when it comes to them lot from the leagues below. Not since Kettering Town in 2001 – then of whatever was below the Conference back then – have we gone out of the competition to someone you’d consider to be “not-as-good-as-us”. The eagle-eyed among you may bleat on about Rotherham United under Smiffy a couple of years back, but we’re now two divisions below them after crossing paths last season. See how it works?
This game is surely an ideal chance to let our hair down, blow off some steam and ditch this 4-5-1 rubbish that’s blagged its way into modern football. Go with two up top and give young lads like Tom Pett the freedom to express themselves. Not least because Pett himself would’ve seen the Stones at close quarters last season in the Wealdstone team. If we try to pussyfoot around our visitors this weekend, it makes for a tense and potentially awkward encounter. And those are two adjectives that normally make for a bad party.
One look at the bookies’ opinion on this one, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking they’re of the opinion it’s a formality. A home win is no better than 4/9 with Stan James at time of writing, while the Stones are floating around sixes for the most part; 7/1 at BetVictor. Stan James makes it 19/5 to go back to theirs, while we’re at it. The consensus is that goals will flow too – Ladbrokes are pick at time of writing, but a paltry 4/6 is the best they can do. Whatever – it’s your money…
We can’t revive our FIFA prediction malarkey this week because EA Sports, in their infinite wisdom, have neglected to include the Ryman League on this year’s game – and yet they can find memory space for Turf bleedin’ Moor. You can’t get the staff these days.
That’s your lot for this time, anyway. We’re off to draw up a detailed plan on how we’re going to spend our Saturday, more likely than not twiddling our thumbs until the BBC see fit for us to play Maidstone. We might go see if “The Magic of the Cup” has been registered as a trademark – we have our suspicions that someone like Jon Champion or Clive Tyldsley has beaten us to it. We fully expect, probably, to be in the hat for next round of the cup, but let’s just get the job done with as little fuss as possible. Please?