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Why the much anticipated FA Cup 3rd round draw is still one of the highlights of the domestic football calendar.

Wednesday 7th December 2016
While the historic competition may have lost some of its magic in recent seasons the FA Cup 3rd round draw still makes compulsory viewing for fans of clubs up and down the country. Why though is the draw still so appealing to supporters?

Primarily the main reason that sets pulses racing is that the 3rd round draw sees the entrance of the ‘big boys' from the Premier League and Championship and with it the creation of hopes and dreams. For every lower league and non-league club, there is the change of a fairy-tale tie. The once in a lifetime chance to host one of the giants of the game or a trip to an iconic ground and of course the sniff of a giant killing, not to mention financial security that can see your club right for years to come.

However, should you draw a fellow minnow, this is still an attractive proposition as while it may lack the glamour and profile of a Manchester United, it does give you a more realistic shout of a win and progress to the 4th round where the dreaming will start again. Whatever the case it guarantees a moment in the spotlight and the opportunity to become this season's cup story.
It is not just the fans of lesser known clubs that are interested in the draw for it also has a significant allure for those of us that follow the most successful clubs in the country. For the Premier League clubs, in particular, a tie against a not so fashionable club provides a rare chance to visit a new ground, or even a new town, watch a game on the terraces and get a taste of football as it used to be. Especially in today's increasingly sterile top flight, it can provide fans with a memorable away day.

For all clubs, the draw has an additional appeal in that it can throw together a derby fixture against your local rivals. Whether it is an additional derby for the season, facing an old rival for the first time in years or an intriguing game against a team that is geographically close to you but not your traditional enemies. 

Finally, the draw itself makes for good viewing. With its prime-time slot on BBC 2, the draw has the history, the style with the velvet bag and balls and most importantly the simplicity of it, untainted from seedings, rules or restrictions, it is down to pure luck and change.

While not a vintage one, this season's 3rd round draw did produce a few eye-catching fixtures to help ease the post-Christmas blues. The following for me stood out;

Liverpool v Newport County / Plymouth Argyle

A classic David and Goliath cup tie, pitting one of two league 2 clubs against the might of Premier League challengers and 7 times cup winners, Liverpool. The last time Liverpool hosted Plymouth was 55 years ago in 1961, while for Newport this will be the first ever trip to Anfield. An away trip to remember awaits the outcome of a now much-anticipated replay.

Cambridge United v Leeds United

Leeds United may not be a Premier League club but they are still a major attraction that will ensure a full house at the Abbey Stadium. A potential banana skin, its games like this that symbolise what the FA cup is all about.

Sutton United v AVC Wimbledon

On paper, not the most glamorous tie but certainly an intriguing one. Both have a pedigree in the competition, Sutton in 1989 famously, as a non-league club, knocked out 1st division Coventry, while one year before that, Wimbledon produced one of the all-time upsets to defeat Liverpool in the 1988 final. On top, to add extra spice, this tie is also a south London derby.

Barrow v Rochdale
Another tie that does not jump out but this illustrates a game where both sides will harbour genuine expectations that they can progress to the 4th round of the competition. Barrow, after defeating League 1 Bristol Rovers are poised to become this year's cup story. For either, once in the 4th round, the excitement can begin again with a glamour tie becoming increasingly more likely.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently trying to swap a career in finance with one in football writing. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I currently have a weekly column on Norwich City website - 'My Football Writer' as well as writing book reviews on 'Its Round and Its White'.

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