"The FA Cup final is the greatest single match outside the World Cup final - and it's ours." - Sir Bobby Robson
"When I was a child, the FA Cup was one of the crown jewels of the sporting year." - Gary Neville
"In the FA Cup, you always have to expect the unexpected." - Roberto di Matteo.
There is a magic to the FA Cup, there is no denying it. There is no knockout competition in the world that stirs up emotion like the Football Association Challenge Cup. A tournament where there is no seeding - a free for all that has a mystique that even the most unfancied can beat the big boys, all because they have been drawn together from the hat. Even Brian Clough, a Division One, European Cup and League Cup winner, retired supposedly disheartened that he never won this famous old trophy.
Millwall have had a wonderful history in the FA Cup, being semi-finalists and finalist in 2004, as well as making the semi-final again in 2013. We have had some big games against Arsenal and Chelsea in the mid-90's, both ending in victory, as well as being on the losing end of a two-legged affair against a Tim Cahill led Everton in 2006.
But recently, our draws haven't been as glitter sprinkled as others. At time of writing we have just been drawn to Rochdale at home, only a couple of balls after the attention grabbing tie of Yeovil Town hosting Manchester United at Huish Park.
Our ties over the years, seconds after being pulled out of the hat, have been met with a sigh that resembles gas escaping from pipes. A game that resembles a Subbuteo table with the creases that your mum just can't iron out, rather than a glamorous tie that would bring the world's elite to The Den. There have been some real stinkers, so join me in going down this trip down memory lane to the games that make you reminisce and think "I must really love this club if I went to those..."
2016-2017 FA Cup Second Round: Millwall 5-2 Braintree
A lot of people remember last season's cup run. Beating three Premier League teams in a row without conceding a goal, before a reunion with a former Millwall loanee, was the thing of dreams. Luckily, being in the lower leagues of the EFL meant there were games that would easily make you nod off. The most exciting thing about this game was the fact Braintree took the lead. Michael Cheek found the back of the net for the National League side in the 16th minute, before the Harry Smith show began and his two goals were quickly followed by a third from Shane Ferguson in an action packed 8 minutes. Jack Midson managed to pull one back for Braintree, before Smith completed his hat-trick and Aiden O'Brien scored in the 90th minute. A banana skin was picked up and chucked in the bin, and the big boys were now in the draw. Who did we get next? The slightly shorter, less cool younger brothers of the Premier League's big boys.... but what a run it was.
2015-2016 FA Cup First Round: Millwall 3-1 AFC Fylde
"They're a good side that Flyde, been looking them up." I remember saying to my Dad at the time. "Big aspirations they've got. Reckon they might turn us over here, they're near the top of the league after all."
"Well you can't be looking at them that closely you wally. They're called Fylde, not Flyde."
Not only did I feel an idiot for pretending I had done my homework on a team I'd never heard of, I felt an idiot asking for tickets to this as a 29th birthday present. A routine home win against The Coasters, with goals from Aiden O'Brien, Lee Gregory and Steve Morison, was followed by a second round defeat against Wycombe. But at least we were rewarded with a trip to Wembley that year in the League One play-off final. And we all know how well that ended.
2014-2015 FA Cup Third Round: Bradford 4-0 Millwall
Embarrassing, gutless, shameful and any other adjective you can think of to describe this most anti-Millwall performance you will ever see. Although away at Valley Parade, then-Championship Millwall were slight favourites against League One Bradford City. However, Millwall had one thing that The Bantams did not: a huge, shiny self-destruct button in the dugout named Ian Holloway. An early red card for Mark Beevers was followed by an absolute onslaught and the Lions effectively being out of the game after 45 minutes. Being 3-0 down at half time was only the beginning, as Bradford scored a fourth in the 57th minute. Millwall did manage a shot on goal up in West Yorkshire. In the 85th minute.
Holloway was sacked before the end of the season. Oh well, at least that was the last we saw of him....
2013-2014 FA Cup Third Round: Southend United 4-1 Millwall
Millwall were managed by caretaker bosses Scott Fitzgerald and former Shrimper Neil Harris, after the sacking of controversial Millwall manager Steve Lomas for this FA Cup third round tie against Southend United. Southend scored first before Jermaine Easter ended his game with egg on his face, when he was sent off in the 45th minute for an apparent stamp. Southend added a second shortly after, and this was before Michael Timlin waltzed through our shocking defence and added a third. Martyn Woolford tried to spare some of Millwall's blushes, but these blushes only got brighter when Ryan Leonard scored in the 90th minute.
"The boys let themselves down today, we weren't good enough and all four goals were a shambles," fumed Harris at the time.
Leave off Neil, it wasn't that good...
2012-2013 FA Cup Third Round: Millwall 1-0 Preston North End
Another year in the third round with so many teams to potentially choose from, and another year where we got a mediocre draw. With a starting line-up that boasted the likes of Karleigh Osbourne, Josh Wright, Dany N'Guessan and Darius Henderson, this was a poor game with the only goal coming from Liam Feeney in the 31st minute. Millwall would progress to the semi-final, where they would go on to be defeated by eventual winners Wigan Athletic, with a grinding-out-result style cup run being the highlight of a disappointing season.
So there is a magic to the cup, but unfortunately, it isn't often that we get sprinkled with the fairy dust. We may've played against Spurs in a quarter final, but even then there were bigger teams in the hat at the time. The Villa game a few years back was against a Villa side on the decline, and we do not seem to have been in Lady Luck's thinking when any of the big boys gets pulled out.
Anyway, with that said, guess I'll have to sort out my ticket for the Rochdale game....