Once the Christmas and New Year festivities were over, the next big event for the 70s schoolboy footy fan was FA Cup Third Round weekend. Armed with a Roy of the Rovers wall chart, and the Shoot preview issue, he would be ready for an afternoon by the radio and waiting for Grandstand to bring in the final scores.
It is traditional now to bemoan the FA Cup as if the magic has gone – and indeed much has changed with clubs fielding reserve teams, penalty shoot outs, and, my personal dislike, having the draw before every team has played. But I think we still like the dream. Very few of us will see our team in the Champions League, or even in the Premiership, but we may all see our team in a memorable cup run or as a plucky giant killer – every club, including non-league clubs, will have a favourite FA Cup year story to tell.
Indeed the tournament is far more open than the League. In the 1970s, nine different clubs won the Cup. Even in recent years, we have seen teams like Millwall, West Ham, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Stoke make it to the final.
As for television, personally I am looking forward to a weekend in front of the box and watching some live games, but of course it was not always so. In the 1970s, the television followed a regular pattern. First, we would have Football Focus or On The Ball, when ‘experts’ would make their tips, there would be previews of certain matches, and the usual stories of giant killing would be wheeled out (e.g. 1933 Walsall v Arsenal, 1971 Colchester v Leeds, 1972 Hereford v Newcastle with ‘that’ goal). Then it would be Saturday evenings’ Match of the Day with ITVs The Big Match (or regional equivalent) – when the TV companies tried to spot the cup shock and send their cameras accordingly – a practice which is still the case when selecting live games.
To conclude, here is a link to a fascinating web site which is compiling a list of FA Cup giant killings.
And a reminder of what was on the TV for the third round in 1978.
Saturday 7 January 1978 – Match of the Day – BBC1
Carlisle 1-1 Manchester United
Leeds 1-2 Manchester City
(Carlisle were recently in the First Division but now relegated to the Third and took on the cup holders. The Leeds game saw a ten minute delay due to a pitch invasion).
Sunday 8 January 1978 – The Big Match – ITV
Chelsea 4-2 Liverpool
Everton 4-1 Aston Villa
Sheffield United 0-5 Arsenal
(Some crackers on ITV with the Chelsea game still a memorable highlight)