The FA Cup 1st Round tie is not a distraction. We were always going to play a first round tie so it’s an integral part of the season. Braintree Town is not a potential banana skin, it’s a real banana skin. Behind Bromley, they are the second highest team in English football that we’ve yet to play. They are threatening the play-offs in the Conference so we could conceivably be playing them as equals this time next year. We can trade off our snobbery towards these clubs, I know I do, but this is not to be taken lightly.
It’s been half a decade since we played in the Conference, although it only feels like yesterday. There was a time it was possible to play spot the Oxford link in almost any Conference squad. Most of those players have retired, fallen out of the game completely, or even, like Jordan Rhodes, gone onto better things. Not so with Braintree, the only thing I recognised about their squad is that John Chiedoze’s son plays for them.
Respecting the opposition is important, but so is respecting the FA Cup itself. I’m probably asking for a lawsuit by not using the name of the competition’s sponsor, who gauchely insists on higher billing than the competition itself. It’s ironic that a sponsor buys into the credibility, profile and heritage of a brand like the FA Cup whilst simultaneously devaluing it.
For over 130 years people have shared a common cause competing for the FA Cup. It binds us through time and space. There are far more venal and unpleasant things to compete for, so the FA Cup is to be protected because once it’s gone, it won’t be back.
Old game of the day
Obviously, having never played them before, there is no old game of the day, so let’s remind us (very briefly) of one of our darkest hours; getting smashed by Marlow in 94. If that’s not sobering enough, just take a look at the colours we were wearing that day.