Premier League giants should beware the underdogs in FA Cup Round 4
Manchester City duly dispensed with Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup 3rd Round replay on Wednesday to cement their position as favourites for a competition they managed to throw away at Wembley last May.
Coral make Manuel Pellegrini’s side 7/2 to lift the trophy this time ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal (both (9/2), Liverpool (11/2) and Everton (8/1). Then there’s a gap to 16/1 Southampton, 33/1 bar.
It’s fair to say that our premier domestic Cup tournament didn’t exactly set the pulses racing in Round 3 and it doesn’t look particularly exciting in Round 4 either with just one all-Premiership affair (Chelsea v Stoke) among the 16 ties and none of the games jumping off the page and grabbing you by the throat.
But maybe there are big stories in there and we just can’t see them. Of course it’s hard to imagine Watford avoiding a thumping at Man City, let alone knocking them out, while Arsenal (at home to Coventry), Liverpool (away to Bournemouth) and Everton (who go to Stevenage) are surely safely on course for a place in the last 16.
But of course, we wouldn’t have Cup shocks if we could see them coming and the top Premiership clubs would do well not to take these lower league teams for granted if they are to have serious designs on going all the way.
And all four of these particular clubs have Cup history of sorts, although in truth in some cases it was some time ago. You have to go back to 1987 for a winner – Coventry, who beat Spurs 3-2 – and even further back to 1984 for Watford’s appearance in the Final.
1984 was also the year that Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth, then in the old Division Three, famously knocked Manchester United out.
But these teams have all had their moments since, notably Watford, who reached the semi-finals in 2007, and we still get these big upsets on quite a regular basis – you only have to look back to last year and the success enjoyed by Wigan and Bradford City (in the League Cup).
As for Stevenage, well, they haven’t been around long enough to have enjoyed a rich FA Cup pedigree, but they were the first side ever to win a competitive trophy at the new Wembley Stadium when they beat Kidderminster in the FA Trophy in 2007 and they came back to win it again two years later.
Kidderminster, of course, are the only non-league side left in this year’s competition after heroically beating Peterborough away in midweek.
Their reward is a money-spinning tie at Sunderland, who in turn will be taking time off from worrying about relegation to start dreaming about 1973 and all that when they beat the then mighty Leeds in the Final to pull off one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history.
But Black Cats beware. Kidderminster were also giant killers back in 1994 when they made it through to Round 5. Nobody is safe.