As I sat down on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago to watch the FA Cup First round draw, I found myself fearing the worst, imagining what pain the grand old competition would inflict on us this season.
In recent years the worlds most famous cup competition has been far from kind on Plymouth Argyle. The last game we won in the FA Cup was at home to Hull City in the 3rd round in 2008, five seasons ago. We were still a Championship club back then, so progression to the fourth round wasn’t as special as it would be now. Since that cold January afternoon we have played five matches and lost every single one of them in the competition. The magic of the FA Cup you say? Pah! Pain more like!
A lot has changed since those Championship days, something that is emphasised in the opposition that have knocked us out in the proceeding years. Defeats at Portsmouth, Arsenal and Newcastle were to be expected but at least we got the glamour of visiting their grounds whereas a 4-0 home defeat to Swindon in 2010 is what you would imagine would be as far from glamorous as possible, yet in our case it gets worse.
Least season a 3-3 draw at Home Park with Southern League club Stourbridge, where it took a last gasp equaliser to save us from defeat was embarrassing enough, but most Argyle fans fore-casted the inevitable defeat at the hands of the non-leaguers in the replay. As if to stick the dagger in just a little deeper, ESPN, sniffing a ‘cupset’ (cup-upset), broadcast the match on live TV. I watched with shame and horror as a depleted Argyle side were outplayed all across the park by men who had worked their part-time jobs just hours earlier. I turned the TV off after the second goal went in, not being able to put myself through anymore of that torture.
So, to this season, it couldn’t get any worse, right? ” Number 36 – Dorchester Town will play at home against…number 31 – Plymouth Argyle”. At first I was excited, it seemed like the ideal draw. A (relatively) local away game at a non-league side with a ground which is a pretty decent size for that level of football. I went back to my daily routine, still very aware of what happened to us against a non-league side last season, but quite content.
However, as the days have passed I have started to fear the tie more and more.
Immediate research into the recent fortunes of Dorchester Town showed that they were in fourth place in the Blue Square South, a play-off position. I delved a little deeper and upon finding out that the Magpies have not failed to win a game at home so far this season my heart sunk a little. Later in the week it was announced our game was again to be aired on ESPN. The £68,000 we will receive in TV rights because of this will be gratefully received, used to speed up the repayments of our staff that went so many months without a wage.
Financially the benefits of this tie are great for us, but I just can’t stop thinking that history is about to repeat itself. Away to a non-league side, aired on TV and now virtually an evening kick-off – just like the Stourbridge game. Fans of clubs that have been knocked out by lower league opposition will know exactly how I feel, there isn’t many things more embarrassing in football than your club being knocked out a cup competition by a team of part-timers.
It appears that the FA Cup still wants to squeeze more ‘magic’ out of Plymouth Argyle, I just hope and pray that we can steal that giant-killing magic and save it for a plum third round tie against Premier League opposition. I can dream!
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