Last weekend, the FA Cup started. Yes, the oldest cup tournament in world football, the most unpredictable competition in the English game, and unquestionably the best domestic cup on the planet, may also be the longest running, from August 15 until the 2016 final, on May 21.
That's a 278 game span. Approximately the length the Fifa World Cup will run for if Michel Platini gets his hands on it.
The tournament this year began with the Extra Preliminary Round - there are so many teams that want to enter, they couldn't even fit them into a pre-qualifying round. In the pre-pre-qualifiers, a lot of interesting stories were thrown up.
14 rounds from the final, teams are playing for £1,500 prize money. To put that in perspective, the winners get £1.8million. Yet for many of the teams in the EP Round as I shall name it, one and a half grand will pay the part time wage bill, or will equal a month's gate money, or can pay for an extra round of ham sandwiches in the director's box. Victory at this stage of the cup, for a lot of teams, is already like winning the cup final.
A quick browse of the results list already throws up so many tales. The biggest winners of this round - and likely any round in the rest of the tournament - were Coleshill Town, who, in front of 121 ecstatic supporters, dumped Ellesmere Rangers out of the competition. The final score was 11-0. Ellesmere presumably had a centre back pairing of David Luiz and Titus Bramble. The goalkeeper was a Mr. A. Potplant.
Other games were remarkable in their closeness. An epic encounter was to be found in front of 30 - three-zero - fans who watched Bedfont and Feltham take on the interestingly named London Tigers. Presumably Assam Allam is the co-owner.
Some may claim the matches at this stage are largely irrelevant, but no-one told these teams. A 1-1 draw, 2-2 in the replay after extra time, Bedfont eventually scraping through on penalties 8-7, knocking out the Tigers, an FA Cup shock it should be noticed. Bedfont of tier 10 knocking out ninth level Tigers. A giant killing. A Tiger killing. They certainly are endangered - extinct in the Cup.
(I would also like to once again shamelessly plug Whitley Bay FC - through 3-2 in a replay against Heaton Stannington after being 2-0 down. Gerrin.)
For a footballing nerd like me, there is nothing quite like even thinking about the FA Cup, the magic and strange possibilities it brings up. So many stories not even all the blogs on the internet can cover them all. I'm not even going to try. I'm instead going to list my favourite team names.
Jarrow Roofing. London Bari. Sporting Bengal United. Street (just, Street). FC Romania. Leicester Nirvana. Bemerton Heath Harlequins. The winner, for me, are Handsworth Parramore. They had a good day too, thrashing Staveley 6-0.
If you supported any of these sides in the EP games, we at back-post salute you. You keep this game we love truly alive.Suggest a correction