For most clubs, the month of July is a quiet one as players return from their summer break with squads put through their paces. It’s quite a dull affair for professionals as running takes precedence over anything else in a bid to shake off the rust that collects over the off-season. In some instances, players who have played in international summer tournaments are still on holiday, which means that more often than not, a skeleton squad reports for the first few days of pre-season.
As mentioned, it can be a rather underwhelming affair that requires players to find the much-needed motivation to take part. But that’s not pre-season everywhere, far from it in fact.
The Journey Begins Before the Summer Finishes
Indeed, for Walthamstow, early July is a time for dreaming as the FA Cup draw is held. This season, the Stags will play Spartan League side Crawley Green who will visit Wadham Lodge in the Extra Preliminary Round with the winners going on to face Hullbridge Sports. It goes without saying but there is naturally a long road ahead before the impossible becomes possible, but that doesn’t stop the hardworking staff at Wadham Lodge from plotting the way forward in the July heat.
It’s a home draw in the FA Cup!
We’ll host Spartan League side Crawley Green in the Extra Preliminary Round, with the winners at home to Hullbridge Sports.
Exact date TBC as West Essex have also been drawn at home, but it’ll be on the weekend of the 7th of August. pic.twitter.com/YmMmX77Uwe
— Walthamstow Football Club (@walthamstowfc) July 9, 2021
It’s fair to say that not everyone treats this competition with the same reverence.
A Difference of Opinion
For clubs who find themselves at the bottom of the footballing pyramid, the FA cup is still the most prestigious tournament in club football. However, these days we tend to see a somewhat dismissive attitude towards the cup by teams at the top, especially those with big squads in the Premier League who choose to rotate playing personnel during FA Cup weekends. It’s not quite the national phenomenon that it was for some, but the magic of the cup is not gone either.
— BT Sport (@btsport) December 24, 2018
Indeed, winning the Emirates FA Cup still holds a special significance for fans up and down the country, even if those in the boardroom don’t hold the same view.
Take Leicester City’s 2021 FA Cup triumph, for example, it was the first time in their 136-year history that they managed to win the FA Cup and who knows if that chance will come around again in the next 50 years? The Foxes may only be as of the 9th of July at 12/1 to repeat their 2021 heroics, but the truth is that these achievements don’t happen very often. So, when they do, there is no greater feeling.
Youri Tielemans with a SCREAMER 🚀
— Goal (@goal) May 15, 2021
Perhaps another way of phrasing that is that there are over 40,000 association football clubs in England, and only 43 have managed to win the FA Cup. Basically, when that elusive cup run does present itself, clubs have to do everything in their power to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
A Long Cup Run can Change Football Clubs Forever
With that being said, not all runs have to end in glory under the Wembley arch for them to be considered a success. Who can forget Cambridge United’s courageous performance in the 2015 FA Cup at Abbey Stadium when they were able to hold Manchester United to a draw? The U’s earned themselves a replay at Old Trafford and subsequently banked £1.5 million for doing so. A sum that changed the future of the club.
So, the burning question, how far can the Stags go in this timeless tournament?
Encouragingly, the signs are good after back-to-back preseason wins. Teams can only start as they mean to go on, and a 2-1 win over West Essex was the pick of the results. This was followed up by another solid win, this time against Bowers & Pitsea who Stow managed to keep quiet after recording a 1-0 shutout.
The stakes will undoubtedly be raised when the jeopardy of knockout football returns, and there are few more demanding stages in club football than that of the FA Cup. Indeed, the serenity of a pre-season friendly will be replaced with the pressure cooker of the world’s oldest club competition.
Walthamstow fans can be confident, though, because the preparation has been immaculate and the players have a sharpness about them already, despite the summer being in full flow still. Should the Stags faithful be given permission to dream about what could be this season? Of course, they should, the FA Cup is for dreamers and romantics