The first weekend of January is within touching distance and that means the best weekend in the football calendar – the third round of the FA Cup, writes Will Sparrow.
The most famous club knockout competition in the world has a real aura and history and creates a buzz that no other cup competition can match.
There has been lots of talk over recent years about the FA Cup losing its magic, mainly through the amount of squad rotation that occurs, especially among the bigger clubs. And although some purists have lost the love, I still feel it’s part of modern football and the thrill of third-round weekend is as still as good as ever.
It all begins with the draw. I grew up watching it on a Sunday afternoon with my dad, hoping for an easy home draw for my team Aston Villa and of course the potential for some giant-killing elsewhere.
With the FA Cup back on the BBC it is getting the attention it deserves with a prime-time slot on a Monday night for the draws, alongside live games and a new concept of a live final score on Sunday afternoons.
This year’s draw certainly did not disappoint, with plenty of non-league teams still involved and a number of mouthwatering ties – such as Dover v Crystal Palace, Blyth v Birmingham, AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool and Yeovil v Manchester United.
The FA Cup, and in particular the third round, is the best there is and the best there ever will be. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I know I will.
My aim is to avoid the scores and then watch Match of the Day to see how the drama unfold.
* What’s your favourite FA Cup third-round memory? And your tip for a shock weekend? Tweet @SparrowWill83 with your thoughts.