Lincoln City's Nathan Arnold (left) and Burnley's Joey Barton battle for the ball.
Lincoln City's Nathan Arnold (left) and Burnley's Joey Barton battle for the ball. Martin Rickett

Magic of the FA Cup still well and truly alive

I HAVE always loved the FA Cup.

While some say the oldest cup competition in the world has lost some of its magic because the top teams send out weakened teams, I still believe it is as relevant as it always was.

It gives part-time footballers across England the chance to rub shoulders with the game's greats for at least 90 minutes and that in my book is a wonderful thing.

You only have to look at the likes of non-league sides Lincoln City and Sutton United in this year's competition to see just what the FA Cup can deliver.

No one would have given Lincoln, which leads the National League - the fifth tier of English football - a chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Indeed, no self-respecting football pundit would have given the Imps any chance of defeating Oldham, Ipswich and Brighton - all teams above them in the league system.

Yet not only did the part-timers from the East Midlands win all of those games in this year's FA Cup, they then went and beat Burnley from the English Premier League on its own patch, Turf Moor, a ground on which the Clarets have drawn with Chelsea and beaten Liverpool this season.

The 1-0 win is up there with some of the biggest shocks in the competition's 146-year history.

It doesn't matter that Burnley might have left out some of its regular starters - everyone would still expect a side 80 places above Lincoln to secure the win.

But that is the beauty of the FA Cup. Forget about the money - Lincoln will get about $700,000 plus TV money for reaching the last eight - this is all about a footballer in the lower reaches of the game getting his time in the spotlight and I love it.

The fifth round comes to a conclusion tomorrow morning (AEST) with another non-league side, Sutton United, entertaining Arsenal.

Again the Gunners would be expected to win but even one of the biggest clubs in English football will not relish playing on the artificial surface at Gander Green Lane.

The south London club has already upset former FA Cup winner Leeds United in round four and now takes on an Arsenal team still smarting from a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Not many people would expect the likes of Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to get a run out but whoever Arsene Wenger picks they will not be looking forward to the game.

Arsenal is on a hiding to nothing with everyone expecting the team to cruise into the quarter-finals but as we have already seen in this year's competition, with the FA Cup, expect the unexpected.

News Corp Australia

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