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Jack the Lad: Cherish the magic of the cup

Wembley kick-off pushed back to silly o’clock, marathon replay sagas scrapped and Cup Final Grandstand long gone . . . despite all this, I still love the FA Cup.

I hate having witnessed the grand old competition being pushed down the pecking order of priorities over the past couple of decades.

Below-strength teams and half-empty stadiums are indisputable indications that the FA Cup isn’t what it once was, no matter how much I do not like to admit it.

But even so, there’s still nothing quite like FA Cup third round weekend to set the pulses of football romantics racing again.

Probably the most disappointing one-off Swans result of last season for me was the FA Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Tottenham.

I accept that the Premier League is the biggest priority at the top end of domestic club football - and dropping out of the top flight was a massive disappointment - but as far as a single defeat was concerned last season, nothing stung me like that loss at the hands of Spurs.

Having grown up in the FA Cup’s halcyon days of the 1970s when TV coverage seemed to start mid-morning and last all day, I had always dreamed of seeing the Swans going on a long cup run.

Having witnessed them playing in - and topping - the highest level of British football in both the old First Division and the Premier League, winning the League Cup, impressing in Europe, reaching the latter stages of “The Cup” was the one thing I had yet to witness.

Although I have always been dead against the semi-finals of the competition being played at Wembley, I would have more than happily headed to London had we overcome Tottenham and reached the last four for the first time since in 1964.

I had always been envious of those Swans fans who could say “I was there” when the Swans beat Liverpool at Anfield in the 1964 quarter-final.

I would finally get my chance to see the Swans in the last eight – and, even better, witness it on home soil!

Alas, a semi-final spot wasn’t to be, but this Saturday the dream begins again as we take on Aston Villa at one of the great FA Cup venues.

Indeed Villa Park was the ground where the Swans played that 1964 semi-final against Preston North End.

The stadium has a rich history as an FA Cup venue over the years having staged 55 semi-finals, more than any other stadium.

It was there that Ryan Giggs scored his unforgettable solo goal against Arsenal which took Manchester United to the 1999 final, and where Crystal Palace beat Liverpool 4-3 to seal their Wembley place in 1990.

And in 1980 the ground hosted two of the three semi-final replays it took to separate Arsenal and Liverpool as the Gunners finally sealed their Wembley place following one of those marathon tussles we no longer see today.

Hopefully the Swans can make a little piece of their own history at the famous old ground on Saturday by taking a first step on that long road to Wembley.

C’mon you Swans!

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