More than 700 teams were entered into the 2007/08 FA Cup, and only 31 are still standing, after Barnsley upended Southend 1-0 on Friday.
Among the sides still aiming to lift the trophy at Wembley in May are 11-time winners Manchester United, 10-time winners Arsenal, 8-time winners Tottenham, 7-time winners Liverpool, and current cup-holders Chelsea, four-time winners of the competition. You can expect to see at least one of those sides in the final, unless something crazy happens.
Then, there’s south coast side Havant and Waterlooville, who will be Liverpool’s opponents at Anfield today.
Who? Havant and Whatawhoville?
Havant and Waterlooville, as they’re known now, have only been in existence since 1998, when they came about as the result of a merger between Southern League rivals Havant Town and Waterlooville, two clubs that had been around for as long as the likes of nearby bigger clubs Portsmouth and Southampton.
While Chasetown were the story of the F.A. Cup third round, coming from the eighth tier of English football to put a scare into Cardiff, the Conference South (one level below the Conference) Hawks did Chasetown one better.
After going through three qualifying rounds just to reach the first round proper, Havant and Waterlooville dumped out York City 1-0, then repeated the same scoreline against Notts County to book a third-round tie against League One table-toppers Swansea.
H & W appeared to be done and dusted after Swansea’s Andy Robinson put the home side ahead in the 74th minute, but Rocky Baptiste set up an unlikely replay by equalizing 13 minutes later.
As unlikely as forcing the replay may have been, the fact that the Hawks would be up 3-0 on 37 minutes in said replay might have been downright unimaginable.
Swansea pulled two back, and could have been level, had Leon Britton’s 42nd minute penalty found the net. But, destiny was on Havant and Waterlooville’s side, and Tom Jordan’s 65th minute goal wrapped up a 4-2 win.
Today, they’ll look to keep their magical run going for at least one more match as they go to Anfield.
There are some players who will suit up for Havant and Waterlooville for their dream clash that have experience in the higher levels of English football.
Assistant manager and midfielder Charlie Oatway, whose entire name is the first names of QPR’s 1973 first-team squad, was on Brighton’s books from 1998-2007, and Jamie Slabber started his career at Tottenham, while striker Richard Pacquette started his career at QPR.
While they may not be marquee names, if you’ve played the Football Manager series a time or two, or happen to keep close track of any of these clubs, then you might recognize those guys.
However, none of their experience compares to the likes of Gerrard, Torres, Carragher, or even Charles Itandje, Pepe Reina’s backup between the posts.
However, if they haven’t packed it in yet, don’t expect them to now, even if it is Anfield, and they’re going up against one of the most decorated sides in European football.
As worlds apart as the two sides might be, one thing that Havant and Waterlooville do have in common with Liverpool is uninspiring league form, as they currently lie 12th in Conference South, 23 points behind leaders Lewes. However, they are only nine points back of 5th place and a promotion playoff spot, with four matches in hand on the current fifth-placed side, Basingstoke Town.
But, today, while their league foes are busy tangling with each other, Havant and Waterlooville will be busy playing with the big boys.
Can they make some magic happen? They’ve made plenty already, so don’t put it past them to do it again.