OPINION: Another FA Cup third round to remember as Nottingham Forest make it through
We were ready for the empty grounds: this was no surprise. We were ready for the elongated weekend which now stretches from Friday to Monday with wall-to-wall coverage of games (depending upon how many channels you have access to or can successfully find amid the modern deluge of media platforms). We were even ready for the endless replays of Ronnie Radford goals.
What we probably weren’t quite ready for was Forest beating Cardiff City for the first time since October 2012: the days of Dan Harding, Daniel Ayala and Danny Collins. This was a rather welcome development.
It was difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for this game. Amidst such a frenetic league schedule with free midweeks at a premium, a cup game was like a cold cup of tea: you’ll quickly dispatch it down your gullet while lamenting its lack of warmth.
It’s not that a tie against Cardiff was unwelcome, but more to say that at least a game against opposition from a different division would have made a change from the Championship treadmill.
Despite this, watching Lyle Taylor expertly finish a neat move before anyone was even thinking what to have for Saturday lunch was a welcome distraction from the weirdness.
That’s not to say that odd things were confined to the City Ground. The sight of Chorley taking the field against a team comprised of lads not yet old enough to vote added a new twist to this particular brand of FA Cup third round football weekend.
Scenes of lower league teams celebrating in the dressing room in front of a steamed-up camera lens with hair flattened by cheap champagne while belting out a club anthem are de rigueur on the occasion of a classic cup upset.
However, the choice of a slow plaintive ballad such as Adele’s Someone Like You pushes the boundaries of the generic conventions when it comes to sporting celebratory anthems.
The bizarre didn’t end there. Seeing Jose Mourinho sat on a bench more suited to one usually found at the side of a recreational pitch on the outskirts of a rural market town, while Gareth Bale ran the risk of being asked to pop round to number 45 and ask if they could have their ball back from the back garden in which stood a cardboard cut-out of Jürgen Norbert Klopp, only added to the remarkable vignettes of last weekend.
Regardless, it was a lovely feeling to be in the velvet bag on Monday evening for the fourth and fifth round draw in which Forest will play Swansea, with the carrot being a tie against Cheltenham or Manchester City.
Until then though, it’s back to the Championship grind with the visit of Millwall, who Forest played less than a month ago, in a season in which they have played at Oakwell twice already before Christmas and will play Swansea in the league a week after they may or not play against Cheltenham or Manchester City. Confused? Get used to it.