Why the FA Cup is such an important part of the English football calendar

The rich tradition of the FA Cup has lasted ever since it was formed way back in 1871, 151 years ago. In each season of this famous competition, a shock upset is always on the cards with Premier League regulars facing lower-league minnows.

But how much of an impact do victories against English football’s elite do for those smaller clubs with a lack of funds?

There are countless times in the FA Cup where a big upset has helped a lower-league side financially to be set up for a long period of time due to additional money. This can be found if one of these lesser-known teams has an enticing home draw against a team with a much bigger reputation. If the national TV cameras come to televise the match, this can bring in a large amount of income for the home team as well as getting their name out to the national audience.

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One example of this is from last season when non-league side Marine went on a magical cup run to the third round. After passing through the preliminary and qualifying rounds, they faced League Two side Colchester United where they won on penalties to secure their place in the second round.

After a win against Havant and Waterlooville in the subsequent round, a huge tie awaited them as Tottenham Hotspur would visit the Marine Travel Arena. A new record for the biggest gap between two sides in the competition was made and there were 161 places between the sides leading up to the game. Marine hit the bar early on to nearly defy the odds of a near impossible victory however Spurs showed their class by triumphing 5-0.

Despite this fixture being held during a national lockdown, Marine were able to sell £300,000 in virtual ticket sales which has apparently set the club up for the next 20 years.

The 2016/17 season was a momentous one for non-league sides in the FA Cup as two progressed very far in the competition, Sutton United and Lincoln City. The latter made it to the quarter-finals after beating Altrincham, Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Premier League team Brighton 3-1 at Sincil Bank.

Another top-flight win came their way as they travelled to Turf Moor to face Burnley where an 89th minute winner from now Portsmouth defender Sean Raggett sent the National League side one win away from Wembley. Despite losing 5-0 to Arsenal in the quarter-finals, that FA Cup journey for Lincoln is a memory that will never die away for them and the club.

Sutton United were a lower mid-table team in the 2016/17 National League campaign when an incredible cup run put the club on the map. Ever since beating Dartford one league below them in the first round, they only beat sides that were above them until that year’s winners Arsenal visited Gander Green Lane in the fifth round.

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Their most memorable victory in their unbelievable run came in the fourth round when then Championship side Leeds United played at Sutton. Gary Monk’s side were defeated by a Jamie Collins penalty which crashed Leeds out in embarrassing fashion to a resilient Sutton team as they made it to the fifth round.

Personally, as a Southend United fan we have not seen many joyous moments as a football club. However, in 2009 the Shrimpers got an away tie at Stamford Bridge in the third round which was a memorable game as Southend managed to hold out for a 1-1 draw. This meant that Chelsea would visit Roots Hall in the replay with world known stars including Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and John Terry all starting for the away side. Their quality showed though as a 4-1 win propelled them into the fourth round to damage Southend hearts.

The FA Cup is special for so many reasons. The days out for the fans at stadiums they would have never dreamed of visiting, wins at clubs higher up the football pyramid and watching players you only have ever seen on Match of the Day are just some examples. Memories are made across the country in each season of this infamous competition – but what is your special memory of the FA Cup?

The Author

Jack Patmore

Billericay Town Media Assistant | Work for The Non-League Paper, VAVEL, Phoenix FM & others | Part of The Football Writers Association | BBC Young Reporter Winner 2023

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