View from the sofa: No naked butler but heroes aplenty as it goes bananas
23:42 GMT, 6 January 2013
00:28 GMT, 7 January 2013
As is so often the case, it was Jeff Stelling who delivered the sentence that best summed up the day. ‘O’Brien is in for Matt Armstrong-Ford, the naked butler who failed a fitness test this morning. He’s become an instant hero.’
It’s just gone 3.17pm and the wise men of Sky Sport’s Soccer Saturday are getting excited. Middlesbrough have won a penalty and Ishmael Miller has stepped up to take it. Liam O’Brien, the stand-in goalkeeper for Hastings, ranked 18th in the Ryman League, makes the save and it stays 0-0.
Instant heroes; new and unusual stories. If it’s not a new story, it’s a good old one. In a nutshell, that’s the ‘magic’ and the ‘charm’ of the FA Cup’s third round. It’s the novelty, the lop-sided match-ups, the possibilities, the temporary seating, the quirks of history. Often, the fixtures serve up a belter, but it’s usually context over content.
Providing the drama: Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team keep the viewers up to date with the 3pm kick-offs
And on Saturday, as always seems to happen on the first weekend of January, there was no shortage of context.
Joe Cole was back at West Ham, restarting his career almost 14 years to the day after making his professional debut for the club in the same competition. Manchester United were once desperate to sign him. Their interest had long since died by the time they arrived at Upton Park.
Bournemouth’s Wes Fogden has overcome a tumour that ate into his spine and he spent months in a body cast. The paper talk is of overcoming adversity, leading into a discussion of Bournemouth’s prospects against Premier League Wigan. Then there’s Hastings again, with puns on 1066 and all that, and Mansfield, whose manager, Paul Cox, got married two days before taking on Liverpool.
Instant hero: Liam O'Brien saves a penalty from Middlesbrough's Ishmael Miller
Southampton’s Jack Cork has been saying how desperate he is to match and silence his dad Alan, who won the FA Cup with Wimbledon; Southampton are 4-1 down against Chelsea after an hour. But Fogden goes close for Bournemouth against Wigan, before Eunan O’Kane puts the League One side in front. Non-League Luton are leading against Wolves. Goldberg pulls one back for Hastings.
So far only Brighton have banked what, on paper, is an upset. ITV certainly saw the 2-0 win coming, hence the live coverage.
But then Macclesfield of the Blue Square Premier pull level with Cardiff, the leaders of the Championship. Matthew Barnes-Homer, who has scraped a living playing in the US, Sweden and the Midland Alliance, scores the goal. And then the winner. The gap between the sides is 81 places.
Back on the pitch: Wes Fogden plays for Bournemouth after recovering from a tumor
‘It’s all gone bananas, Jeff,’ says Soccer Saturday reporter and occasional manager Iain Dowie. Kieron Dyer has scored for QPR in injury time against West Brom. Is that irony or magic Joe Cole looks reborn as West Ham draw 2-2 with Manchester United.
By the close of play on Saturday, there are a couple of fruity upsets — notably Macclesfield over Cardiff and Luton over Wolves — but no genuine giant has been knocked on his backside.
On the phone-ins, some Cardiff and Wigan fans aren’t happy with the changes that their managers made to their respective sides.
But that doesn’t matter so much. Barnes-Homer, Robbie Simpson of Oldham, Brighton’s Andrea Orlandi and Alex Lawless of Luton are instant heroes. ‘Magic,’ as Stelling said.