Ok, well maybe I exaggerate slightly, but the point remains that in years gone by, we were actually a powerful force in English football, regularly making forays into the latter rounds of the two cup competitions. For those of us raised on Division 2 football and Martin Carruthers, this all seems a little hard to believe I know.
In the past twenty or so years, our record in the cup competitions, has been pretty awful to say the least. The League cup in recent years has seemingly been an opportunity for Stoke to aid the smaller North West clubs in progressing to the next round. Rochdale, Oldham, Macclesfield, these titans of the modern game regularly prove too much for Stoke to handle in the junior cup competition. There have been some bright spots however. Drawing with Liverpool at Anfield. Beating Man United in the first leg at the Vic. We even dumped Chelsea out in late 90's which was also a bonus. That's all I can really recall however.
In the FA cup, our record is hardly any better. Not including the past two seasons, take a few seconds now to try and remember a memorable FA cup victory. I tried. You know what I came up with? 2-0 at home to Lewes. That's it. That's my total enduring memories of 'the magic' of the FA cup. Upon browsing our record, the forgotten memories come flooding back. Telford, Nuneaton Borough, even the Vale proved too much for us. EVEN WEST BROM BEAT US. That's right, even our perennial scalps, the baggies, beat us in the cup. It even took us a replay and a penalty shoot out to beat Tamworth.
Ah well. Que sera, sera. We had a good run and it was fun while it lasted. We'd finally rekindled a bit of the magic of yesteryear and kept our interest in the FA cup going longer than that typically gloomy January weekend like normal. For once I could take part in that tense, if not slightly over blown, experience of a new rounds draw and it's numerous possibilities and permutations. Only one game shy of Wembley still represents a good achievement for Stoke and is a sure sign of progress.
Maybe this is the start of a glorious new era of Cup endeavour from the Potters. Maybe we can go that extra step or two next season and give our fans a trip to Wembley. (I could rant here about the absolutely shite decision by the FA to have the semi finals at Wembley which not only devalues the final itself, but also benefits no one but the assorted London bigwigs and sponsors who get two days out in the hospitality lounge rather than one. I could make that rant here.....but I won't). Who knows, next year, could really be our year.