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Football
Andy Townsend playing for Chelsea in 1993
Andy Townsend reached the FA Cup semi final on three separate occasions

Andy Townsend’s view of the FA Cup

Ask me to name the League Champions in any given year and I’d struggle to tell you. But when it comes to the FA Cup, I can reel off winners, losers, goal scorers, big shocks and brilliant games aplenty. The magic of the Cup comes from the fact it lives so long in the memory.

Whether it’s Ronnie Radford smashing the ball in against Newcastle on a muddy field in Hereford, or Keith Houchen diving to demolish Tottenham’s hopes in the Final itself, we’ve all got our favourites.

Last season I travelled the length and breadth of the nation with the ITV team trying to work out where the shocks and the titanic struggles might take place.

We were at non-league Northwich Victoria right at the start to see Charlton toppled. Our presenter Matt Smith was engulfed at the final whistle as thousands of jubilant fans danced and sang on the pitch.

In Round Two we were at Rockingham Road, home to Kettering Town, for the visit of the once mighty Leeds United. Only a goal 12 minutes from time saved the Yorkshire club from being dumped out of the competition.

But then in Round Three it was Leeds themselves who turned giant killer as they went to Old Trafford with a huge army of supporters and knocked Manchester United out on their own patch. What a competition this is!

Read More: The FA Cup Giant Killers

My own experiences as a player in the Cup were somewhat incomplete. If you’d asked me as a schoolboy what I wanted to win most I’d have said the FA Cup. Playing for Welling United and Weymouth at the start of my career I enjoyed the competition in its rawest form. Muddy pitches and roped off crowds full of hope of a run to the Third Round.

Later, with Southampton, Norwich, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, my expectations changed. We didn’t join in till January, and on three occasions I was still involved at the Semi-Final stage. They say elimination in the last round before Wembley is the cruellest way to go and I have to say I agree. Mind you, with the Semi-Finals at Wembley these days at least more fans get a big day out in the capital.

Covering the Cup can be quite a challenge. In the early rounds our technical teams build scaffolding for cameras at grounds not accustomed to the media spotlight. At the start of this campaign Southport faced Sheffield Wednesday in their biggest game since the 1960s and our television trucks and miles of cabling joined the 6,000 excited fans packed into Haig Avenue.

Read More: Clive Tyldesley's view of The FA Cup

Round Three weekend remains one of the high points of the British sporting calendar. Every year finds a sloping pitch or talented postman turning up to ruin the big boys’ day. The League may be your bread and butter, but the Cup will always provide the possibility of glory.

Enjoy the rest of the season, and here’s to classic Cup-ties, shocks aplenty and a wonderful showpiece at Wembley come May.

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