It gets you every year. Plays with the imagination, allows you to dream.
As you’re watching Mark Chapman in the clubhouse of the non-league side that is flavour of the month – this year it’s Hitchin Town’s turn – commentating on two ex-pros picking numbered balls out of a bowl.
You’re waiting for that one ball, with your club’s number. These days you know it before the draw is made, with constant reminders onscreen to kill any sense of surprise. But when it comes out, 28, 41, 19, whatever, it’s still the same rush.
A non-league team away? Fallen Premier League ‘giants’ at home? A tasty local derby? Your fate lies in Dion Dublin and Dennis Wise’s hands, quite literally, as they swill the spheres around.
Out they come, one by one, to the chorus of oohs and aahs from the surrounding crowd.
Dion and Dennis are pulling out some cracking looking ties, and in the days ahead, as the television companies pick the best out of the bunch, the potential for a three day football fiesta looms large.
Three non-league sides hosting higher ranked opposition. The powers that be lap this sort of stuff up. Hampton and Richmond against Oldham, yes please. Barnet against Bristol Rovers, yep. Met Police Newport? No thanks they say, Saturday 3pm for you, which plays into my hands perfectly.
Three games in three days, or three games in two minutes, which you can see above. For many, the highlight of the footballing calendar, as non-league sides get the attention and credit they rightly deserve. Albeit sometimes patronisingly from those accustomed to the Premier League soap opera played out on our television screens, but all publicity is good publicity, right?
Alas, in the end there was rain, and pain, but no giants slain. But for fans of Met Police, or Barnet or Hampton and Richmond, there were memories that will last a lifetime. The FA Cup served up a treat once again, football never lets you down.