Sunderland

FA Cup: Could the Team Who Upset Manchester United Fall?

Sunderland's manager Gus Poyet looks on ahead of their English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

The FA Cup is regarded as irrelevant by some, jaded and tired of the old "romance of the cup" line, and such a stance is understandable.

For the very top clubs, it is at best third on their list of priorities, with the financial rewards of the Premier and Champions Leagues taking precedence. For teams struggling against relegation, it could be seen as a distraction.

In any case, the wild disparity between the haves and the have-nots in English football make upsetsthe very thing that still draws people in to the FA Cup and is the central part of the "romance"less and less likely.

However, they do still happen, so which sides have the best prospect of springing a shock this weekend?

The biggest gap between two sides facing each other is non-league Kidderminster Harriers and Sunderland, with a massive 79 places separating the two in the English football ladder. Kidderminster manager Andy Thorn, who was part of the Wimbledon team that upset Liverpool in the 1988 final, told BBC Sport that this doesn't put him off:

Any one-off game can go any way as long as you prepare properly, believe in what you do and go there with determination.

In that run with Wimbledon. we were favourites to get knocked out in every game we played.

But if you go with belief and desire, once you get out there, with your supporters right behind you in their numbers, anything can happen.

Indeed, Sunderland could very much have their eye off the ball this weekendthey, of course, reached the Capital One Cup final on Tuesday, beating Manchester United on penalties, and are involved in a tough relegation battle in the Premier League.

While there is a massive gap between the two sides, either complacency or tiredness could creep in and give Kidderminster a chance.

KIDDERMINSTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Kidderminster chairman Mark Serrell poses during the Kidderminster Harriers press conference at Aggborough Stadium on January 23, 2014 in Kidderminster, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

There is likely to be an extra frisson of rivalry between the two sides over, of all things, a disagreement on tickets. Sunderland initially refused to give Kidderminster more than 3,000 tickets unless the Skrill Premier side paid for them in advance, representing a big financial risk for such a small club.

Kidderminster chairman Mark Serrell spoke with the Daily Mail about the situation last week:

This argument sours it. It seems like the magic of the FA Cup doesn’t extend to Premier League clubs.

There’s a chance we could sell 10,000, but we don’t know that for certain. To put pressure on us is unfair.

It’s not as if they will sell out the stadium so they’re losing ticket sales. If that was the case I could understand.

Kidderminster eventually took an allocation of 5,000, but as of Friday afternoon, they were still advertising tickets for sale on their official website.

Plenty of things apart from their relatively lowly league position would seem to count against Kidderminster, not least the departure of their star player and scorer of the winning goal against Peterborough in the previous round, Joe Lolley, who joined Huddersfield earlier this month.

However, it's almost impossible not to become swept up with Thorn's enthusiasm.

We've now got the chance to go and play at the Stadium of Light, one of the best grounds in the country. And I hope we can go and do ourselves justice. But there's so much more to do with this team. I've hardly got started yet.

Maybe, just maybe, they could do it.

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