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BOWLER’S DELIVERY: Stay on your feet

13 January 2016

You want certainty? You’re in the wrong game

JAMES Morrison’s late equaliser on Saturday night seems to have split opinion in the Albion camp. Some were simply delirious that we had dug out a second chance to prolong our FA Cup campaign into the fourth round, while others felt that celebrating a draw against a Championship side was pushing it too far.

As ever, turning to the history books gives us a little bit of perspective. Retreat to January 1968 for example when we went to play Colchester United of the Third Division in round three. Struggling through the tie, with the scores locked at 1-1 deep into injury time, United stuck the ball in the Albion net. 

Throstles sunk to their knees in despair and John Talbut kicked the ball clean out of the ground in disgust, only to turn around and find the referee had given us a free-kick for reasons which, to this day, are unexplained. We duly got our replay, thumped Colchester and went on to win the cup. 

January 1957, away at Doncaster Rovers of Division Two, we scrambled a 1-1 draw courtesy of Bobby Robson’s goal. The replay safely negotiated, we made it all the way to the semi-finals. 

Or January 2008, an electrifying goalkeeping performance by Dean Kiely, including an especially outstanding save 15 minutes from the end, earned us a third round draw at Charlton. That set us on our way to another semi-final.

Onto 1982 and we squeezed past Third Division Gillingham in the fourth round thanks to a Derek Statham goal, the only one of the game on our way to the last four again. 

Great goals or, more honestly, outrageous flukes from Tommy Glidden against Everton in 1931 and Jimmy Dudley against Third Division Port Vale in 1954, saw us come through semi-finals that could, perhaps should have been lost. 

The truth is that the FA Cup has rarely, if ever, been won by any team making serene progress round by round, barely breaking into a nervous sweat through to the handing over of the silver chalice on final day. 

Instead, they are pretty much all won after the shedding of blood, sweat and tears and the endurance of a large number of bowel testing moments along the way. 

That is what sport is about, that glorious unknown, the fact that anything can and, quite often, does happen. Given how much we moan about the predictability of the Premier League – though not this season – it seems a bit churlish to complain when the unlikely bites back.

As it is, history says that James Morrison’s goal answers nothing, not just yet, but crucially, it creates possibilities, dreams. It might be the goal that ultimately gets us to Wembley or it might have caused us the pointless inconvenience of going to Ashton Gate to get beaten on a Tuesday night. That’s what makes football so thrilling. We have no idea what’s going to happen.

What we do know is that the first rule of FA Cup football is the only rule. When the music stops, make damn sure you are still standing. So far, it’s mission accomplished. Thanks James.


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