Talking Sport: FA Cup still has its magic - but only for some

The FA Cup has become the elephant in the room, writes Craig Peters.

It’s standing there; shadowed in a crowded room and feeling almost embarrassed about its sudden attendance at the party.

Lurking in the corner with eyes firmly down to the ground it starts to gently hustle for some space and a yearning to be acknowledged. But sadly, its voice is overpowered by the more dominant personalities in the room and it shuffles back to obscurity in the corner.

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Yes, there’s an elephant in the room. And its name is the FA Cup.

‘Elephant in the room’, for those who don’t know, is the name given to an obvious truth that’s being ignored or going unaddressed. It also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

I adore the FA Cup. But what I love most about it is the third-round draw.

During my (attempted) run on Sunday, I noticed it was 20 minutes to draw time. Risking a heart attack, my feet pounded down the road as quickly as a greyhound’s.

Children were barged out the way and off their bikes; little old ladies and their dogs were given an apologetic nudge as I desperately clambered back home to hear the sound of the 64 balls drop into the pot. I made it, thank God. I love that sound.

The clammy hands and my irritating tapping of the leg soon followed; who will my club (Brighton) get? I felt a sudden shock immediately when the first ball was drawn – Crystal Palace - our nemesis, who had convincingly beaten us 24 hours earlier. It couldn’t be, could it? No. Stoke City. You beauty.

“Number eight - Brighton & Hove Albion...” Like a disturbed meerkat I leapt towards my disinterested wife whose eyes barely left her book. “A home tie love, we’ve got a home tie.” “Yes, I’ll do it in a minute,” she muttered.

“Will play number 28 – Newcastle United.” I immediately hit the phones, texting friends and family with an annoying energy that borders excitement and sheer foolishness. However, my exhilaration evaporated when it seemed many were either not watching or unaware the draw was taking place.

Some fellow Brighton fans weren’t even excited: “Played them last season, boring to play them again” they’d quibble.

The cameras showed live footage of some of the non-league clubs. Hastings, if they can get past Harrogate Town, go to Middlesbrough; Lincoln or Mansfield battle it out for the privilege to host Liverpool. The utter delirium on their faces was fantastic.

But I wondered if the likes of Wenger, Ferguson and Mancini were sitting around their TV sets eagerly anticipating their fate. Watching? Yes, probably. Eager? Don’t count on it. And that depressed me.

To some the FA Cup, one of the most romantic tournaments in the world, is now a hindrance. It gets in the way of what they see as more important targets and objectives.

But I can safely say that if I find myself out running before any future FA Cup draw, my own targets and objectives will remain the same - to push over anyone who gets in my way or who threatens to slow my journey home. You’ve had your warning.

The FA Cup has entered the room. But it seems there’s only a select few who have actually noticed.

* Do you agree with Craig? Is the magic of the FA Cup a thing of the past, or is the competition alive and well despite some downplaying it? Tweet Craig on @OspreyPR or email [email protected]

* Osprey founder and director Craig Peters has played sport at a high level. Part of Brighton & Hove Albion’s youth team in the mid to late 90s, Craig was part of the same midfield line-up which included England midfielder Gareth Barry, for both Brighton & Sussex.

Craig started his playing days at Portsmouth at the age of 12, moving on to Gillingham before heading to the team he supported as a boy, Brighton. Craig then played semi-professionally for Burgess Hill and Withdean in the Combined Counties League. He has also previously competed for Sussex on the athletics track in both the 1,500 and 3,000m.

Osprey PR is a team of sports PR specialists who advise sport clients on issues management, finance, PR & press, corporate reputation, public affairs, legal communications, healthcare and technology. The clients span from fledgling businesses to governing bodies to brands & sponsorship campaigns to sporting events to individuals and grassroots initiatives.