The Magic of the Cup is a hearty dish, but it requires very special consideration to 'come off.' It can easily spoil, doesn't usually keep very long (quaterfinals if you're lucky), and can leave fans with upset stomachs, and in severe cases, especially with regard to fawning members of the English press, logorrhea. Here is a surefire recipe that, with a bit of luck, will help your FA Cup fixture rise to the occasion.
- 1 League Two side (I recommend a side that's struggling in the league, also with 'Town' somewhere in club name. Can be substituted at your own risk with a Conference side. Should have lots of aging premier League Stars or failed siblings of current Premier League stars for flavouring.)
- 1 Premier League Club (again, if you're ambitious, a top four side can be used. One with an under-fire manager is preferable.)
- 1 Creaky Small Town Park (I recommend one with lots of Victorian-era chimneys in the background, standing terraces, as well as a car-park near the south stand. Hoarding signs should include local plumbers, a regional real estate company, and if possible, a local anti-crime toll-free number.)
- Lots and lots of salty language from stands immediately beneath commentary booth mixed with some classic FA Cup cliches by the announcers.
Next, have the Premier League side score a demoralizing equalizer. This should come as closely as possible to the 45' mark for maximum deflation; I recommend a goal from an offside position. Best results if goal scorer is hated continental international and Ballon D'Or winner.
Once half time is finished, have the twenty-year League Two goal-keeper make a series of unbelievable stops for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the clock reads 60'. This should be carefully followed with a series of very good chances for League Two side. The crowd should be quite loud at this point, so temper the action to make sure they don't over-do it before the final ten minutes.
Around the sixty-fifth minute, substitute now-tiring goal-scorer with aging former Premier League star. Keep League Two chances building until the 80th minute. About this time you'll want the League Two goal-keeper red carded for an heroic last minute challenge on Ballon D'Or winner. If you feel like making it spicy, the penalty can be controversial (careful: an outright dive can risk on-field violence, which can really screw up the magic.) The keeper's fifteen year-old substitute should make a miracle save.
Finally, and this is the tricky part, after withstanding lots of pressure from the Premier League side, you'll want aging League Two former Premier League forward to score last minute winner. My own preference is for free headers on the edge of the box, but many also like freekicks (be creative!). As for timing, I find the second minute of extra-time does quite nicely, although others prefer a bit earlier so the game can finish off with lots of nerve-racking moments in League Two six yard box. By this time the home stands should be really cooking, so feel free to finish with a pitch invasion after fulltime.
Et voila! The perfect Magic of the Cup to help warm you on a cold January afternoon. Enjoy in moderation.