My love for the FA Cup is well documented here on my blog, and in my book. And possibly my favorite thing about it is the Third Round Proper, when the Premier League and Championship clubs enter.
This is always the first weekend of January, and the 2018-19 edition has been announced today. Let’s take a look at some of the matchups, and how it might affect my Groundhop 1 tour plans for January 4-7.
First, a screen shot of the full draw, which I lifted from The Telegraph. (Click the image to see it full-sized)
Next, a quick reminder of what the FA Cup is: a nation-wide tournament with no brackets or seedings, just new clubs coming in every round up to this one. The winners from the previous round go into the basket, the new clubs go in, then somebody pulls them out: home team first, away team second. So when you look at that list above, whoever is listed first plays at home.
And yes, this means that Tottenham Hotspur will have to play at either Tranmere Rovers or Southport, who play soon for the honor of hosting Premier League opposition. And yes, it also means Arsenal have to go to either Sulihull Moors or Blackpool, depending on who wins that one. This kind of thing, along with Leicester City having to play at either Wrexham or Newport County, is what they call the Magic of the Cup.
Some More Highlights of the Third Round Draw
Just some quick reactions to what you see above:
- Everton v Lincoln City: Lincoln City, who made the Quarterfinals two years ago after beating Burnley on the way, get a trip to Goodison Park. In 2017 they brought 9,000 fans to Arsenal!
- Chelsea v Nottingham Forest: Forest will bring a lot of people down for this one, and it’s a good (affordable) opportunity to get into Stamford Bridge.
- Burnley v Barnsley: Not that exciting a matchup, just two clubs I used to get confused about when I first started this years ago. Kind of like if Brentford were playing Bradford City.
- Wolves v Liverpool: A potentially really tasty matchup, especially if either or both decide to go for it and play some real players. Ideal for neutrals would be if Wolves do and Liverpool don’t.
What Does This Mean For My English Soccer Tour, Groundhop 1?
At this point, Groundhop 1 has turned into a series of events that people can sign up for, rather than a “whole tour” option — which nobody signed up for, anyway! December 29 we’re going to Spurs-Wolves at Wembley, December 30 we’re going to Palace-Chelsea, January 1 we’re planning a lower-league doubleheader around London, and January 3 we’ll be at Man City v Liverpool.
The next weekend has been kind of on hold, waiting for this FA Cup draw. So here are some games I’ll be looking hard at, once the TV schedule is announced and games get moved to Friday, Sunday and Monday.
- Millwall v Hull City: Not the ideal matchup to take in a game at The Den, but I want to get some groundhoppers over there.
- Bristol City v Huddersfield Town: Great city, not too far from London, could be a fun day out for us. Premier League visiting Championship.
- Gillingham v Cardiff City: a struggling Premier League team travels to face League One opposition, not too far from London.
- Wrexham or Newport v Leicester City: A tough ticket wherever it is, but should be fun to see a local club’s biggest day in years.
- Fulham v Oldham Athletic: Not a premier matchup, but Craven Cottage is a lovely place.
- Woking v Watford: Really tough ticket, but this is Premier League visiting (6th tier) National League South!
- QPR v Leeds United: Potentially the pick of the lot from a neutral’s perspective. Leeds will bring a ton of people, and Loftus Road is a great, cozy old ground.
- Norwich City v Portsmouth: A couple of hours from London by train, but Norwich is fun, and Portsmouth always travel well.
So there we have it. It’s always fun when the fixtures list gets updated and we can work out which adventures to aim for. My ideal breakdown is that the QPR and Norwich games wind up on Saturday and Sunday, then one or two of Woking/Wrexham-Newport/Gillingham get moved to Friday or Monday. That would make for a fun four-game weekend!