The FA Cup third round is all about giant killings – you can't beat the thrill

THE third round of the FA Cup is all about giant killings. And I’m lucky enough to have witnessed two of the most famous ever.

When I say lucky, it didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time, given that one of these two unforgettable matches involved the comprehensive humiliation of my beloved West Bromwich Albion.

Let’s get that one out of the way first, shall we? It was 31 years ago, in January 1991.

My life was in disarray.

I’d just left college and was supposed to be working abroad but, having badly broken my leg playing football, I was living back with my parents in the West Midlands, wondering whether my leg would ever heal and what on Earth I was going to do with the rest of my life.

The only thing I was sure about was that West Brom would make it to the next round of the cup that year.

This was because our opposition in the third round were from a town most of us couldn’t have pointed out on a map of Britain, or a page of football results.

Woking in Surrey. Woking — a word branded on the hearts and minds of every West Brom fan I know.

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We were in the old Second Division — the second tier. They were many, many leagues below us.

This week, the Football Association, with the help of mathematicians at the University of Bath, have rated it the most unlikely cup upset of the past 50 years.

They calculate the probability of Woking winning stood at one in 15,959,312. Long odds, those, in anyone’s book.

The plaster cast on my leg was so big and heavy that I was unable to man-oeuvre it into my seat at The Hawthorns, so my mate got hold of a wheelchair and a plank of wood, to rest my leg on, and he trundled me along to the disabled supporters’ area by one of the corner flags.

It was from this vantage point that I watched the horror — from my point of view — unfold.

All you need to know is this: We took the lead but then an estate agent called Tim Buzaglo scored a hat-trick and we ended up losing 4-2.

Woking’s fans went berserk with joy, rubbing their eyes in disbelief, as did we.

Soon after the final whistle a demonstration materialised, calling for the head of our manager, Brian Talbot.

At the time my car was a Talbot Horizon. Such was my veneration of Brian Talbot that I’d stuck the letters B, R, I, A and N before the word TALBOT on the boot.

As we made our way home that dark night, with my mate at the wheel and me and my plaster cast on the back seat, there was suddenly a horrendous grinding noise.


It turned out the exhaust had fallen off the bottom of Brian Talbot — the car, that is.

By Monday morning, Brian Talbot the manager was our ex-manager. Miserably, I peeled the stickers off the car.

This whole dismal experience might well have marked the end of my love affair with the third round of the FA Cup, but a year later I’d fallen head over heels again.

I got a call on the morning of FA Cup third round day from a Wrexham fan I’d been at college with.

This was Bryn Law, who fans of Leeds Utd and Wales will now be familiar with for his broadcasting work.

Wrexham, who had finished 92nd and bottom of the whole Football League the previous season, were playing Arsenal who had finished top of the whole pile.

Bryn had a spare ticket.

I wasn’t sure I could be bothered with the drive to Wrexham. I’m terribly glad my mate talked me into it.

Still dragging my gammy leg, I hobbled up on to the Kop at Wrexham with him.

Shortly before half-time Arsenal scored. Oh well, this was the Arsenal side that always seemed to win 1-0.


That was where we were heading when, in the 82nd minute, Wrexham got a free kick just outside Arsenal’s penalty area.

“We haven’t scored from a free kick in years,” Bryn told me.

Wrexham 1, Arsenal 1.

There was mayhem on that Kop and, before it died down, incredibly, Wrexham scored again.

The home end now resembled a mosh pit at a Sex Pistols gig. My leg could have got rebroken but I wouldn’t have cared.

Final Score: Wrexham 2, Arsenal 1.

Bryn buried his head in my shoulder and sobbed.

There were 13,343 of us at the Racecourse Ground that day. All of us will take the memory of it to our graves.

I suppose, 30 years on, many will already have done so.

That’s the magic of the third round of the FA Cup.

It’s like a very old friend you’re no longer so close to but never stop loving, because your roots run just too deep.

Dag a ray of sunshine in drab weepie

LOTS of people are gushing fountains of praise for the Netflix film The Lost Daughter.

It’s not my kind of film, with too many watery-eyed, deep and meaningful stares into the middle distance and not a great deal else happening.

Also, that Irish lad from Normal People is in it – you know, the one women everywhere lusted after.

And that’s always a bit annoying.

On the plus side, Dagmara Dominczyk is in it.

Her name sounds like it might belong to a Polish shot putter from an Olympics in the Seventies, but her face is so beautiful it could launch a thousand ships.

Down on his duck

SOME stories feel like they belong on April 1 and have no rightful place on any other day of the year.

The man in Devon who caught bird flu is a case in point.

I’m no expert but as he was living with 20 ducks in his house, this must always have been a risk.

He’s doing fine but his housemates have had to meet their maker, I’m afraid.

They’ve quacked their last.

And the guy’s name is Gosling, for heaven’s sake. Alan Gosling.

I know a gosling is a baby goose, not a duck, but even so.

Many questions come to mind: Did the quacking not drive him nuts? What about all the poo? Did he bother with a rubber duck in the bath when he could have the real thing?

I’d call and ask him but the poor chap’s bereft, apparently, missing them terribly.

I’ll leave him in peace.

Learn and be happy

I WONDER if the calamity of the pandemic has hardened us so much that other horrors are no longer quite registering.

A case in point was the storming of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, the first anniversary of which was this week.

It was awful enough to behold at the time but seemed to be sorted quite quickly.

We all agreed it was a disgrace, and moved on. It’s only now I’m realising how dreadful it was.

Five people died. Many were injured, including 138 police officers.

And four officers who responded to the attack died by suicide within seven months.

It’s all very well dealing with stuff and moving on, but if we lose our capacity to be genuinely appalled then the future could be very bleak indeed.

Happy New Year, by the way.

And to think, my New Year resolution was to be cheerful about stuff . . . 

Arctic feat of baring

I INTERVIEWED Preet Chandi this week, the British Army officer who has become the first woman of colour to make it solo to the South Pole.

Dragging her supplies on a sled much heavier than her, she skied 700 miles across Antarctica in 40 days.

The weather was brutal, with strong winds and the temperature dropping as low as -50C.

A question occurred to me: How did she go to the toilet?

“The main thing when it’s that cold,” she explained, “is to do it quickly.” Noted.


HAVING spent several happy years working on The Apprentice: You’re Fired, I’m loath to suggest any changes to the main show

But something has sprung to mind.

The luxury of the house in which they live has never seemed quite right to me.

It’s not so much that it’s daft for mere apprentices to be living like rock stars, rather that the losers as well as the winners return there after every task.

I suggest the surviving losers, having shafted whoever it is who’s been fired, should instead head home to a nasty little hovel for the night to reflect on their shortcomings.

That’ll teach them. Brats.

Menu falls flat

I HAD to get a train from Swansea to London at six the other morning to get to work.

This was a gamble. If the train had been cancelled my radio show would have had to start without its presenter.

This might have been a relief for my listeners, but my bosses would have been most displeased.

To my relief, it left on time.

The train manager said they’d had loads of staff calling in sick but she’d been careful and dodged Covid.

“Mind you, my daughter’s got it now,” she said. “I’ve sent her to her room and told her not come out until she’s better.”

We then spent the time between Bridgend and Cardiff discussing which foods were flat enough to push under the bedroom door for her.

All we came up with were papadums and pizza (thin-crust). Other suggestions welcome.

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