By Josh Roberts
The FA Cup. The oldest national football competition in existence. The opportunity for clubs the length and breadth of England and Wales, amateur and professional alike, to win one of the most prestigious trophies in world football.
Tranmere beat fellow National League side FC Halifax Town in the last qualifying round to reach the ‘First Round proper’ of the FA Cup, setting up a tie against League One Peterborough, a combined 54 places above the Super Whites.
A gutsy performance away to The Posh earned Rovers a well-deserved draw and replay at Prenton Park on Wednesday 15th November in front of the BT Sport cameras. There is already a good amount of hype building amongst the fans, so is the FA Cup a nice distraction to have?
Tranmere’s replay is sandwiched between two crucial league fixtures against Dagenham & Redbridge and Gateshead, at home and away respectfully. League form has been scratchy as best for the Wirral side and currently sit in the bottom half of the table.
The poor start to the season hasn’t lived up the expectations of everyone associated with the club, and after three seasons outside of the football league Tranmere have to get back into League Two sooner rather than later.
Even before a ball was kicked, this season was one of the biggest for Rovers in recent years, promotion had to be the bare minimum achievement come May. The start of the season has made that task a slight more difficult but not impossible.
With that being said, Tranmere are in the midst of a crucial league campaign and the additional fixtures that the FA Cup brings with it is bound to have a detrimental effect on players come the business end of the season due to the added work load surely?
After Rovers recent home win against Halifax, manager Micky Mellon, who made a number of changes for that fixture pointed out the strength of the squad he has at his disposal.
“We’ll keep the players fit and active. We have to because we’ve got such a strong squad so you’ve got to rotate to keep people involved.”
With the ‘distraction’ the FA Cup poses to league fixtures, a strong squad is absolutely essential for an extended run in the cup. There is no doubting the quality of Tranmere’s squad either, so far they have underperformed but this squad is more than capable of making the step up.
That was shown on Saturday against Peterborough as the ‘lowly’ National League side comfortably outplayed their so called superior opposition for periods of the game. Tranmere have a squad that can compete on all fronts that is for sure.
The FA Cup shouldn’t be seen as being bad for a club but definitely a nice distraction. Scott Davies knows how big it is to play in the FA Cup. Everything about the competition seems to galvanise a club, every fan dreams of seeing their club being drawn against one of the Premier League ‘big boys’ in the third round.
As do the players too. Liam Ridehalgh would love the chance to draw Manchester United if Tranmere made it that far. And why can’t they?
Home advantage in the replay with the promise of lesser ranked side than Peterborough in the Second Round should Rovers be successful against them.
The FA Cup shouldn’t be revered and shunned by fans and players, it simply has to be embraced as it can create memories that last a life time.
The hype train is already starting for Tranmere and it’s only a First Round replay. Prenton Park will no doubt be bouncing when Peterborough come to town and that is the beauty of the FA Cup; fans will cheer and sing for their club till the cows come home to make sure they win.
So is the FA Cup a nice distraction? For clubs like Tranmere it is magical.