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Minnows get their chance; FA Cup provides the romance football needs.

Byline: John Helm

MOVING into a new decade is always an exciting time if only because, irrationally, it brings hope of better times ahead.

Of course England are going to win football'sWorld Cup, Europe will slaughter the Americans in the Ryder Cup, Britain will pick up dozens of medals in the Commonwealth Games and Sir Alex Ferguson won't have a bad word to say about referees, timekeepers, other folk's business etc, etc.

I know I'm living in cloud cuckoo land there's more chance of Susan Boyle being named Miss World than Fergie changing the habits of a lifetime, but it's nice to dream.

This Saturday is my favourite day of the year and the football fans of Barrow, York City, MK Dons and Forest Green Rovers could all be on cloud nine.

The FA Cup continues to throw up romantic tales every year even though many claim it has lost it's magic through those managers who persist in devaluing it by fielding weakened teams. Are you reading Mick McCarthy? When I was a tiny tot I can remember watching Path News at the local fleapit cinema and seeing black and white images of Bradford (Park Avenue) beating Arsenal at Highbury.

It was the start of my love affair with the club.

I was devastated a few years later when my dad refused to let me go to watch them play Manchester City, on the ridiculous grounds that I'd get trampled underfoot!

There will be new, unlikely heroes all around the country.

On Saturday night, Hansen, Lawrenson and Shearer will be desperately trying to show their knowledge about players they've never heard of onMatch of the Day and the terms minnows, giant-killers and plum draws will be trotted out interminably.

Ronnie Radford's goal for Hereford against Newcastle will be dusted down and dragged out of the BBC archives and some poor manager will probably get the sack because of a one-off result that is too ignominious for his directors to bear.

Nowhere else in the world does a knock-out competition come close to rivalling our FA Cup and I for one love it.

I don't expect too many shocks over the weekend, but Rafa Benitez will swing if Liverpool go down at Reading.

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READING TEST: Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is in the firing line
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 30, 2009
Words:385
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