James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Myth, magic and the FA Cup

Sheffield United take their first steps along to road to Wembley tomorrow
Sheffield United take their first steps along to road to Wembley tomorrow
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The Grand Connaught Rooms, chosen to host the draw for the first round proper of this season’s FA Cup, is one of London’s most opulent venues.

A destination, owners Principal-Hayley proudly proclaim on their website, can deliver a “real wow factor” to any event.

Gerrard Houllier and Ray Parlour are unlikely to have set pulses racing at either Sheffield United or Colchester when they picked balls 12 and 38 out of the hat towards the end of last month.

Glamorous, an autumn afternoon at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, most definitely ain’t.

Nevertheless, given that the vast majority of teams about the enter the tournament haven’t won anything of note since heaven-knows-when, I find the ambivalent attitude many folk adopt towards it baffling.

Likewise the notion that success in knockout competition has a detrimental effect upon results elsewhere.

Because, without wishing to get sniffy, none of the 80 clubs preparing to take part are, by definition, good enough to pick and choose when they win games.

In any case, history suggests the opposite is true. That progress tomorrow is likely to help United or Colchester start climbing the table.

After all, only four of the last 15 teams to be promoted from League One failed to reach at least the third round stage en route to the Championship. (Less than 27 per cent). And, of those, only Doncaster Rovers and Norwich City finished inside the top two.

Of course, there are exceptions. The two most recent winners of the third tier’s play-off final (Huddersfield Town and Yeovil) fell at the first hurdle earlier that term. But, in the three years before that, Peterborough, Millwall and Scunthorpe all prevailed in the end of season showpiece after surviving until January.

By contrast, seven of the previous eight teams relegated from League One did not win a tie. A fat lot of good clearing the calendar did them.

In all cup competitions, the average number of contests a promoted club has played since 2009 is 7.8. In the last 24 months this drops to 6.5 while, in the two years prior, it was 9.16.

I appreciate there are priorities but why are so many managers who might never win a trophy in their lives so blasé about chasing silverware?

*Twitter: @JamesShield1