This Saturday sees a diversion from the monotonous fear of Premiership survival, as Watford visit Gallowgate to play the role of ‘next hurdle’ on our Road to Wembley. 4th Round eh? Check us. Nosebleed time.

Having managed to climb out of the drop zone last weekend, it’ll at least be nice to attend a  match without constantly struggling with the pathetic 3G signal, forlornly trying to discover how our rubbish relegation rivals are doing.

The FA Cup appears to have certainly captured the imagination of our opponents. I read yesterday that they’d sold a whopping six hundred tickets, so prepare yourselves for a veritable cavalcade of coaches, plenty of tin foil trophy replicas and a Hertfordshire wall of noise. Is it because Watford are a smallish club punching above their weight or is it that this competition has become a bit ‘so what’ in the eyes of many? Probably a bit of both, I reckon.

The Glory Hornet boys (as those zany Soccer AM ‘guys’ once dubbed them) navigated their way to this juncture by overcoming non league Woking 2-0 in Round 3. Like most Premiership sides they put out a weakened team, lacking a number of regular starters. I grudgingly understand why teams at the very top & bottom of the league resort to this ‘bigger fish to fry’ approach, but if you reside around 7th – 15th, it’s more puzzling. Surely if you’re safe and with zero chance of worrying the top 4, you give the Cup a proper go? D’you not want to at least try to win something?!? The plethora of foreign managers are undoubtedly a factor here. Cup competitions appear to carry little weight on the Continent, and whilst I’m as far away from being a Billy Brexit as can be, I’ll concede that this behaviour is one import I’m less keen on.

Given a different set of circumstances, I wonder whether Rafa would fancy trying a bit harder in this one? Depressingly, given his ‘odds on’ looking departure at the end of this season I guess we’ll never know. This Saturday, it’s pretty clear that we’ll see a line up not dissimilar to what he put out for the two games with Blackburn Rovers. It’s good to watch some of the Geordie kids giving it their best, but in reality we’re just here to make up the numbers. Yet another sad indictment of Ashley’s Newcastle United.

Making a prediction is almost impossible for such a tie. We can guess what our line up will look like, but Watford’s? Who knows? So, it’s ‘stick a finger in the air time.’

I’d like to think we can progress. You’d have thought that there will be a decent 30,000+ gate and home advantage might help. I’d imagine ‘Flat track Troy’ will play some part and will be busting his capacious gut to get on the scoresheet, whilst no doubt attempting to live up to the ‘bully’ tag. Our centre backs, however are made of sterner stuff these days.

Anyway, enough blather. I’ve gotta give a prediction, so………. I think we’ll go out and play without fear. I also think it might be quite open. I reckon we’ll nick it by the odd goal in three.


Nick Clark