It’s been a quiet year so far for FA Cup giantkillers. But the magic of the cup is still there, with Bradford beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Stevenage tonking Newcastle, non-league Luton and Crawley reaching the fifth round…
Then there are the all-time classics like Hereford 2 Newcastle 1; Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 and Sutton 2 Coventry 1. And the seasons when lowly Wycombe and Chesterfield got to the semi-finals – a Chesterfield side which included Kevin Davies.
This weekend, Carlisle, Burnley and Peterborough will try topple Premier League giants to achieve the promised land.
After Chesterfield’s heroics in 1997, when they were controversially beaten by then-high flying Middlesbrough, Kevin Davies went on to become an England international. He played for Southampton, Bolton and Preston – and he knows better than most what it takes to be a giantkiller.
Loaded asked for his tips…
How to be a giant killer – by Kevin Davies
To be a giant killer you need sprit amongst the team, so you can just give it your all. You need to find ways of levelling the playing field, to make it as uncomfortable as you can and use your squad to the fullest. It helps if you’re on a good run yourself as well.
The FA Cup, particularly for the English players, brings something special out of them. It brings an extra 20%. I can’t put into words what’s so magical about the FA Cup – it’s just something special.
I know the Cup has got a lot of criticism over the last few years but, if you talk to players, particularly in the lower leagues – they love it. There’s no question about lower division clubs leaving players out. I know for a fact it means a lot to these players and they raise their game.
It’s a chance to get into the hat, to draw one of the big teams and it can be good financially as well. But finances don’t come into it for the players. From my experience, the bonuses aren’t that great for the FA Cup. It’s just the glory of it, really.
The chance to test yourself against maybe the best players is always fantastic. Last year, we at Preston went up against Manchester United in the fifth round. We took the lead in the second half, but unfortunately we lost 3-1.
So it’s a break from whatever league you are in, it’s something different. It’s rarely about individual performances on the day if you want to cause an upset. You need to be in it together, have the whole squad be at the top of their game if you’ve got any chance of pulling off that upset.
But you can virtually guarantee that will happen if you’re playing one of the big Premier League sides. You’re also secretly hoping that they’ve under-estimated you! If you’re all up for it and a couple of the big-name players are off form, anything can happen.
When I played in the Premier League, I used to love drawing the non-league teams or the Football League sides and going to their stadiums or have them come to our stadium. They’d always bring a few thousand fans and it added something special.
But the FA Cup is something special, even though it’s caused me heartbreak, with Bolton and Southampton as well as Chesterfield.
When the FA Cup came around every year, I always used to watch the draw. Seeing who you’d get next – I loved it!
Being with Chesterfield and playing in an FA Cup semi-final was amazing. Even though I was very young, I knew it was something incredible, that I’d always remember. Teams like that Chesterfield still come around every now and then. Bradford were one, Sheffield United another – if you get a few good, winnable draws then getting to the semi-final really is doable.
Maybe one day I can manage a team and win the cup that way, or at least be like our Chesterfield team and do something decent. If you can get the luck of the draw, you can get there.
I never won the cup as a player, so hopefully one day I can get my hands on the trophy that way.
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran