Aldershot FanZoner Lewis Blain is dreaming of a big cup upset at the Riverside this weekend.
Could Shots conjure up the magic of the cup?
Some say the FA Cup has lost its 'magic', and its excitement but as a lower league football fan we relish the opportunities that we could face as the underdogs of the competition. Coming into the tie against Rotherham on the back of their 3-0 drubbing at ours only 3 months previous, many fans were not that optimistic. But you know what, we as the underdogs showed what we can do, beat anyone. We won 3-1 that day after a hat-trick from Danny Hylton; the atmosphere, the occasion and the match brought across the memories and enthusiasm of the FA Cup, it is still a trophy which teams want to play for.
The Sunday after your team plays, you sit there waiting for the draw and you are nervous, anxious and you are even excited about the prospect of going to one of those 'big' clubs or visiting a 'big' ground. For us lower league teams it is not just about the fans, it's about the potentially prize money and gate you get from it. Take my club for instance, Aldershot, the financial benefits of receiving a large gate at a top Premier League side would be enough to keep us running for years to come. The manager could use the money to significantly improve player quality and improve facilities.
So that Sunday came, and all of us Aldershot fans waited and hoped for the likes of Manchester United (again!), Arsenal and Chelsea, we were drawn away to Middlesbrough. The reaction was not what we wanted, the most average tie we could have got but you know what? After a few days of thought, we can actually get something from this. The Riverside is a wonderful stadium which many look forward in visiting, this tie may only attract 15,000 fans but the target is obviously to go there and do our best but a draw would be excellent. To earn a replay at the EBB would certainly give us a chance into the 5th round and that means the likeliness of a top club is heightened.
So what are our chances? In the last few years, we have a decent record in the cups against Championship opposition. At the start of the 2011/12 campaign we were drawn away to West Ham in the Carling Cup (now Capital One Cup), no one had us down for an upset, but after a last ditch goal, made it 2-1, a classic case of the underdogs going through. This season in the same round of the Capital One Cup we were drawn to another second tier side - Wolves, we took it to penalties after a 1-1 draw but penalties saw them through, a tough way to go out but an impressive performance against a team who were in the Premier League the season before.
Middlesbrough find themselves securely, well up in play-off contention in the Championship, their league position represents the strength of their playing squad. Players like Jason Steele, Marvin Emnes, Julio Arca and Josh McEachran all play for their respective nations and they also have vast experience in Jonathon Woodgate, Justin Hoyte, Grant Leadbitter and Stuart Parnaby. Tony Mowbray will put out a strong side as the competition means just as much to them as any side.
On the other hand Aldershot are at the wrong end of League 2, having set 'play-off' targets in pre-season, saying this season has been an disaster would be an understatement but recently it hasn't been. The Shots have only lost 4 times in the last 14 games, showing signs of improvement in all areas, 2013 has been good to us and so far we are unbeaten. That run gives us a huge boost for this game.
Another League 2 side, Bradford are well on their way to the final of the Capital One Cup, beating Arsenal and Aston Villa, there run has impressed many and has given some sort of awareness to the football leagues. They have stunned critics and progressed through the competition, current proof that anything can happen in the cup, who says it cant happen to us minnows Aldershot?