2011/12: FA Cup Final – The Journey
Once the winning captain lifts the famous old trophy later today, the 2011/12 FA Cup competition will be complete for another season. It will bring down the curtain on a journey that began back on 20 August 2011. That day as Liverpool went on to win 2-0 against Arsenal at The Emirates and Chelsea overcame WBA 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, up and down the country fans gathered to watch games in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. On that day I was part of a crowd of 81 at the Fitzwilliam Stadium to see Hemsworth Miners Welfare host Tadcaster Albion and so my adventure began. Under a grey August sky, Albion of the Baris Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division overcame Hemsworth 2-1 to progress.
The inspiration for this goes back to my teens. Ever since reading Journey to Wembley by Brian James back in the 70’s, I have always wanted to try a similar experience myself. The book by James has a rather long subtitle in, The Story of the 1976/77 FA Cup Competition and Liverpool’s bid for the treble. A Football Odyssey from Tividale to Wembley. Brian James premise was a simple one, he started at the First Qualifying Round with a randomly selected game and followed the winners of each successive tie all the way to Wembley. As the book subtitle suggests, the opening game of the journey began at Tividale and ended with the FA Cup Final in 1976/77 between Manchester United and Liverpool at Wembley. However, the book also contains a Postscript with coverage of Liverpool’s first European Cup Final in Rome.
In the end I managed to get to a game for 9 of the 14 Rounds which were as follows:
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round
FA Cup Preliminary Round
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
FA Cup 1st Round
FA Cup 2nd Round
FA Cup 3rd Round
FA Cup 4th Round
As I sit down to watch the Final later today, I’ll raise a glass to all those team who set out in back in August last year and look forward to it all starting again in 3 months time!