It might not have quite the allure in New Zealand as it did in the 1970s and 80s, but there is still something about the FA Cup. The Merseyside derby from a few weeks ago was watched by more than seven million people in the UK – higher than any TV game in Britain this season.
And it starts with a Friday night thing. Sheffield Wednesday hosts Reading in the Feature Game while Yeovil Town (one of the great names for a football club) host Manchester United. Both those games kick off just before 9am NZT which screens at an unusually friendly time.
The romance of the competition would say this is made for romance, but it won’t happen. It does give Man United an extra day off before their next Premier League encounter though.
Then it’s all go on the Saturday. The eye-catching tie there is not the all Premier League clashes but MK Dons v Coventry. Partying like it’s 1987 / 1988.
Those years are viewed as the glory years of the FA Cup, before it got dominated by the mega-clubs, and those wins sum up what the FA Cup is meant to be about. In Old School speak this is Div 3 v Div 4, but it is a reminder of other times.
WilliamHill has the Crazy Gang V2.0 as narrow favourites, but there is not a lot in it.
As an aside, the other close prediction is Middlesbrough v Brighton. Here the slight favourites are Middlesbrough (8th in the Championship) over their Premier League rivals (16th ). Sometimes the position in the league, couple with home advantage, can mean more than the league you are playing in.
Further to this; League one leaders Wigan are favourites at home against West Ham. In the third round Wigan put aside Bournemouth.
This is a particularly special time for Coventry City. It has been a grim last 20 years for the Sky Blues; they are close to bankruptcy, and are now knocking around mid-table in the bottom tier of professional football.
Their solitary trophy came in 1987 with Cyrille Regis in the side. And with his recent passing you would hope the current breed will respect who he was, and what he meant to football in 2018, as is often the case, David Squires summed it up best in his tribute cartoon.
Sunday action sees another Premier League encounter with Chelsea taking on Newcastle. But there are a couple of other times that match takes place this season. The FA Cup is all about the romance.