I do love the FA Cup. For me it’s always the highlight of the season, and it probably always will be. But the football nerd inside me doesn’t yearn for huge crowds at Wembley Stadium, it’s the qualifying competition that really excites me.
From the one-sided thrashings to the discovering of new teams I’ve never heard of before, the qualifying rounds really generate an excitement in me that no league or other cup competition ever does.
This year’s competition began on 4th September, when just two first qualifying round matches were played. South Shields’ 2-0 victory over Gateshead Leam Rangers and Wigan Athletic’s 1-0 win over MSB Woolton may not have set the sporting world alight, but to me it was the first step on a path that leads to more excitement and drama than any other.
Two months later and we arrive at the first round proper. With 177 teams already eliminated and over 700 goals scored, calling it the first round seems a little dismissive of everything that has happened in the earlier rounds, but it’s all part of the tradition I suppose.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be previewing every tie in the first round and looking forward to the next chapter in the greatest story in football. Here’s to the FA Cup.