Ben Burgess: Cup the stuff of dreams and a Pool’s nightmares

Blackpool manager Neil McDonald

Blackpool manager Neil McDonald

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The FA Cup is the one everyone dreams of winning when they are playing in the playground at six years old, or running around the park at thirteen.

Even as a professional player in the lower leagues, I still always had a feint dream that maybe, just maybe I could win it.

We’ve seen a relatively average Millwall team reach the final a few years ago.

Bradford have gone far, Sheffield United have also had great cup runs.

There’s always at least one surprise team that progresses deep into the latter stages of the world’s most famous cup competition.

Cup runs have also thrust many a player into the spotlight and helped them on their way to stardom.

The first great FA Cup underdogs I remember were Wimbledon who managed to beat the all-conquering Liverpool side in the final, cue the emergence of the ‘Crazy Gang’ and the likes of Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu in particular. Next came Crystal Palace in 1990 and the magical strike partnership of the relatively unknown Bright and Wright as they squeezed past Liverpool (again) 4-3 in extra-time. A real underdog story though was Chesterfield, when they upset all the odds to reach the semi-final and take the Fabrizio Ravenelli inspired Middlesborough to a replay. That particular run launched the career of a certain Kevin Davies.

Sadly for Blackpool, Fleetwood and AFC Fylde though, the dream is over for another year. AFC Fylde can be proud of a fantastic run that saw them put up a great fight against a quality Millwall side. All of this in the intimidating arena of the New Den.

Unfortunately, Blackpool did not cover themselves in glory in their encounter with League Two side Barnet. Neil McDonald chose to make six changes and pulled no punches in his assessment, “Nobody performed anywhere near what I expect.”

Whether the Seasider’s would have achieved a positive result at full strength is by no means a certainty.

We won’t even mention the Wigan result!

Rotating the team can be a good thing if you have a strong squad.

For the players on the fringes it can be a fantastic opportunity to be noticed in a game that actually means something.

Simon Grayson was never one to change his team for the cup games, where as Ian Holloway would love to tweak and change his side for those matches.

When you’re on the verges of the team it can give you a great confidence boost to be thrown into a game that actually matters. In the season we were promoted, Ollie made about eight changes for the visit of Premier League Wigan to Bloomfield Road in the Carling Cup.

I was one of the players that came in and not at any stage did Ollie act like we were weaker or that he didn’t expect us to perform well. We went onto thrash a near full strength Wigan, and fringe players like Ismel Demontagnac performed fantastically.

The real heroes of the first round of this year’s FA Cup were Salford City.

Given a great home draw against one of the oldest football league clubs in Notts County.

All this just the day after the BBC Documentary on the ‘Class of 92’!

As a football fan I really enjoyed the documentary. It gave a great insight into all the hard work performed by the people who keep grass roots football going. Everyone from the lady running the café to the groundsman. The other thing that stood out was the managerial team at Salford, Johnno and Bernard. I’m not sure about some of their methods and how ‘bigger’ players would respond to them, but nobody can question their desire and commitment. It’s also amazing to see players of the calibre of Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, who have won everything in their careers, celebrating a goal from a part-time player like it was Solskjaer scoring in the last minute against Bayern Munich all those years back.