An Early Kick-Off

Has it really been just ninety-one days since the 2008 FA Cup Final? Apparently it has, but the FA Cup gets back under way this weekend with the Extra Preliminary Round. On Saturday afternoon, 406 entrants will take their marks, dreaming of the twin tower, meeting the Queen… well, probably not. For clubs entering the FA Cup this year, a run to, say, the Second Qualifying Round (in which the Conference North and South clubs enter) will probably be plenty enough excitement for one year. There are a record number of teams entering it this year – 706 – and the format remains the same. Two preliminary rounds and four qualifying rounds before the Football League clubs take their places in November. None of this is to say, of course, that they should be underestimated. St Albans City drew local village team London Colney in 1995 and could only draw their first game against them 0-0 before winning the replay 4-1, and there are minefields aplenty for the bigger clubs that will join the party later on. Part of the problem for coaches at this level is a lack of knowledge about the opposition. The manager of an average Conference South team probably knows next to nothing about a County League team from ten miles up the road, and they have to physically go and see them play if...

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