There are some who have suggested we field a weakened side in this weekend’s clash with Northampton, others who decide not to go to FA Cup games in the early stages for whatever reason they have.
Whilst some cup competitions are being devalued by either a lack of interest (League Cup) or a lack of common sense (EFL Trophy), the FA Cup will always be the big one.
FA Cup first round weekend has always been around my birthday and perhaps for me it has a special significance. it didn’t in the late 1980’s where my 11th birthday coincided with us getting beaten by bloody Altrincham, but there’s still a certain romance about the cup, win, lose or draw.
The away day that sticks in my mind from last season is Wimbledon, a new ground, a team we’ve not met before and a possible giant killing. Ok, so the latter didn’t happen, but it still stood out for me as a big trip. The FA Cup isn’t just another competition, just another reason to stay at home or to go shopping with the better half, it is without a doubt the greatest club competition in the world.
Balls to the Champions League with its glitz and glamour, where else will the Met police get to play a professional side? where else will you recall being beaten by bloody Emley on penalties, or get to go toe to toe with a top side like Liverpool? There’s only one competition that matters outside of the league. This one.
I find it a shame that the ground won’t be close to a sell out, that fans are treating this weekend’s game against the Cobblers as a chance to stay at home. I get that it can be pricey, but with 5,000 season ticket holders who are paid up every game, it isn’t a huge expense, is it?
I’m not fan shaming, far be it from me to do that after my dressing down on Twitter last night (although it seems the Twitter user was equally as moany a few years ago, see point five in this article), fans have their reasons for not going, but there’s little wonder our fan base get so much abuse when our FA Cup attendance won’t match that of the league. Mind you, few will this weekend. It seems the old magic of the cup is wearing off for some supporters.
It shouldn’t do with us though, should it? Little under two years ago we went on the ride of a lifetime and I find it a crying shame that just one match has taken place between us being in the quarter-final and tomorrow and yet there’s an apathy set in already.
I don’t need to tell you what happened, I don’t need to tell anyone. Where we are right now is down to that cup run, make no mistake. Without out it wouldn’t have had the funds to bring Harry back in on loan, nor to sign Billy Knott from Gillingham. Those two players were instrumental in our winning run post Arsenal that sent us to the Football League.
Without the FA Cup run we wouldn’t have the packed stadium we do now, the training ground, nor the memories that will live with us forever. I know many point to Burnley as their key moment of the run, that late goal from Sean Raggett that reduced a thousand adults to tears, but for me it will always be Nathan Arnold’s goal, the sweet rounding of their keeper to send us to the fourth round, the first time since 1976. Everything aligned that night and even now I’m getting goose bumps and a teary eye thinking about it.
Before that though, there was Oldham, a night when Lincoln realised it had a professional football team thanks to TV coverage. Before that we had Altrincham, a game in which I endured so-called fans calling the club behind me whilst watching proceedings. The Guiseley game in the qualifying round wasn’t that special either, the 0-0 draw witnessed by only a few thousand people, all of whom were unaware the ride would end in front of closer to 70,000.
There’s little chance we’ll get to the quarter finals again, the hope is perhaps to get through two rounds and have a decent club back at Sincil Bank to reward the fans with another special memory. From a financial point of view a third round tie at Old Trafford would be nice, but lets not be greedy, we’ve had our fill of the success and magic and we shouldn’t begrudge that to another side, but we’ve the living embodiment of what a run can bring to a club.
What could it bring to us now? What if we did beat Northampton, then got through the second round? How far could this club go with half of the exposure and financial reward that we got back in 2016/17?
We know what we want from the league, we were happy not to want the same from the League Cup and we’ve already smashed the other competitions, but this is the one you want a full strength side out. This is the one that should always, always attract a full first team. it’s a Saturday competition, we have a week off thanks to Yeovil next week and frankly anything less than a full first team will be incredibly disappointing from my point of view.
We’ve already tasted success in the FA Cup and in doing so it changed our club and it changed my life. Would I be writing full-time if the interest in Lincoln City hadn’t increased? Would my blog have got so many views, would Football League World have seen my work and approached me? Probably not.
That is why I will always, always support this competition, be it at the Emirates, Sincil Bank, Kingstonian or another far-flung part of the country. Being in it is like buying a lottery ticket and in 2016/17 we got five numbers and the bonus ball.
Nothing will ever be the same again, don’t risk missing out on another chapter because it’s only the first round.