RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Tuesday, January 12

S14: 14 Clubs What Which Played the Most Matches In Previous 5 Years' FA Cups

This past weekend – aside from being the first playoff weekend of the American concussion ball – was the third round of the English FA Cup, which is when the 44 teams form the top two divisions, including the Premier League, jump into the fracas, along with 20 other teams who were still alive from the previous rounds. The FA Cup is a chaotic clusterfuck of soccer footballing competition where almost any professional or semi-professional team in England (some even outside of England) can compete in a knockout tournament. So there’s a long tradition of “minnows”, or lower level teams, knocking off Premier League (or at least higher division) teams. In fact, my team – Swansea – who is fighting potential relegation from the Premier League this year, went out against a League Two team this past Sunday, which is three levels below Premier League, and got beat.
Teams from different levels come in at different times, during a long qualifying process, which starts with level 9 and 10 of English football, which is the local as fuck teams, and gradually introduces each higher level. If there is a draw in the match, they do a replay a few days later at the other team’s home stadium (or field, because lolol some of these teams have nothing close to resembling a stadium). This starts with whatever team that meets certain requirements from those local leagues at level 9 and 10 playing in an Extra Preliminary Round. Level 8, which are regional leagues – 136 total, join in the Preliminary Round. 72 teams from Level 7 join in the next First Round Qualifying, followed by the 44 teams in level 6 in the Second Round Qualifying, then the 24 teams from level 5 of English football in the Fourth Qualifying Round. Whoever is left at that time enters the First Round Proper, joined by the 48 teams from League One (level 3) and League Two (level 4). The winners of First Round play in Second Round, leaving 20 teams which join the 44 teams from Football Championship and the actual Premier League what which is famous in the Third Round Proper. At that point, it’s 64 teams, so sort of resembles March Madness in single elimination down to the FA Cup winner, who qualifies for a European tournament. Thus, conceivably, some little ragtag assortment of soccer shits competing in the lowest levels of English football could magically make their way to Wembley Stadium and then a continental competition. That doesn’t really happen, but conceivably it could. But usually the Premier League teams kind of half-ass if they are at the top of the Premier League table, and you sort of have teams stumble into the Fifth Round or final sixteen, and then the teams that are out of position to make a European tournament otherwise might pick it up, or a top team having a less-than-top season (like Chelsea probably will do this year) try to get a little saving glory from their season.
For the sake of doing a weekly Sporting 14, I thought it’d be interesting to list out the fourteens teams who had played the most matches in the FA Cup the past five years, all rounds – both proper and qualifying, and including replays, just for the fuck of it. Ties went to the lowest level team, because I am a minnow in a world of powerhouses (but I am premier level psychically). I had to limit this to the top eight levels of English football though, because fuck man, there’s like another 184 teams that play at the 9th and 10th levels, and this list is already compiled from 428 teams total. (What the fuck is wrong with me?) (Oh yeah, I get really fucking bored sometimes.) But – for example – Shildon A.F.C. from the 9th level (Northern League Division One, nicknamed The Railwaymen, established 1890) has played as many matches as the number one team on this list – 26. But I didn’t feel like digging through all those lowest level teams. Sorry.

#1: CHELMSFORD CITY F.C. (National League South – Level 6) – 26 matches played.
The Claret City, as is their nickname, had a crazy run for a few years, making the Second Round Proper, just before the Premier League teams entered, in 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13. They crashed out early in 2013-14, but made it to the 4th Qualifying Round last season, before losing a 4th Qualifying Round replay at Barnet. But for a small ass team to make the Second Round Proper three years in a row, that’s strong. They got knocked out this year in the 3rd Qualifying Round by Basingstoke Town. (Great thing about English football lower levels is how all the teams sound like made up shit from Mr. Show.)

#2: WARRINGTON TOWN F.C. (Northern Premier League, Division One North – 8th level) – 25 matches played.
Being from such a low level, they have generally started in the Preliminary Qualifying Round, and advanced a couple round each season. Their big year was last season though, when they forced replays in both the 2nd and 3rd Qualifying Rounds, advanced on through to the First Round Proper, where they upset Exeter City (who played Liverpool this past weekend), before losing to Gateshead in the Second Round Proper. This year, though, they got beat by something called Abbey Hey, 3-2, in the preliminary round.

#3: ARSENAL F.C. (Premier League – 1st level) – 25 matches played.
Of course you are familiar with the Gunners if you are remotely familiar with English football. They won the FA Cup the past two seasons, having beaten Aston Villa in the final last year, in a 4-0 stomping, and Hull City the previous season, 3-2. These were their 11th and 12th FA Cup title, making them the most successful team ever in the competition. This season, they beat Sunderland this past weekend, 3-1 at home, and have been drawn to host Burnley later this month in the Fourth Round Proper.

#4: EAST THURROCK UNITED F.C. (Isthmian League Premier Division – 7th level) – 24 matches played.
In the past five years, East Thurrock United has clawed their way to the First Round Proper from the lower bowels twice, losing to Macclesfield Town in that round in the 2011-12 competition, and then to Hartlepool United in 2014-15. This season, after whomping a Carshalton Athletic, 5-0 away in the 2nd Qualifying Round, they lost at home to Staines Town, 3-6. The oddest portion of their campaign this season though was their 1st Qualifying round game away at Yaxley, which the ref suspended with like 3 minutes left, because a player got injured and he was afraid an ambulance wouldn’t get there in time.

#5: CORBY TOWN F.C. (National League North – 6th level) – 23 matches played.
Corby Town are known as the Steel Men, and their away kit is black shorts with hot pink shirt, so I don’t really want to explicate anything further that might ruin such wonderfulness. (Well, I will say they did make it to the First Round Proper three times in the previous five seasons, losing away to Luton Town in 2010-11, away to Bristol Rovers in 2011-12, both of which you can only expect they were rocking the pink kits. (“Kit” is Anglish for “uniform”.) This year, they didn’t even make it out of the 2nd Qualifying Round, losing a replay away to Rushall Olympic, disgracing their hot pink power jerseys (I assume… I didn’t look for images from the game to be honest).

#6: SHEFFIELD UNITED F.C. (League One – 3rd level) – 23 matches played.
Sheffield United is a storied club with a big reputation for being a giant killer in the FA Cup. In fact, they were in the last regulation minute of a game at Manchester United this past weekend before refs reffed it up and gave MUFC a penalty kick in the final minute, allowing Wayne Rooney an easy goal to help break up his slump, and probably save fuckin’ Louis van Gaal from getting sacked in embarrassment. Had they held on, they would’ve had a very lucrative replay next week hosting the superstars of Manchester United. As it stands, they are out, although in the previous five years, they’ve knocked off luminary teams such as Aston Villa, Fulham, Nottingham Forest, and Queens Park Rangers, and even made it to the semifinals and the grand stage of Wembley Stadium two seasons ago, losing to Hull City.

#7: SPENNYMOOR TOWN F.C. (Northern Premier League, Division One North -  8th level) – 22 matches played.
See, this is one of those weirdly magical sounding teams that if you imagine Bob Odenkirk really over-enunciating “SPIN-nee-MORE TOWN” it makes it pretty wonderful. But the histories of even low level English teams can be convoluted. Spennymoor Town is a combination of a team called Evenwood Town, which had existed since 1931, but combined in 2005 with a second team, Spennymoor United, which had folded earlier that year. The combination caused them to change the name to Spennymoor Town, and that’s them. They’ve never actually made it to the First Round Proper of the FA Cup, but they’ve enjoyed a lot of qualifying round successes, over such potentially made-up things as Crook Town, Newton Aycliffe, Tadcaster Albion, and Harrogate Railway Athletic. This season, they were knocked out in the 2nd Qualifying Round by Burscough, which I think was some sort of toe fungus originally.

#8: STOURBRIDGE F.C. (Northern Premier League Premier Division – 7th level) – 22 matches played.
Stourbridge is known as The Glassboys, due to their home town’s history of producing cut glass, and like many of these teams, they’ve existed since the late 1800s. They actually made it to the Second Round Proper in 2011-12 (before losing at home to Stevenage, which sounds like a wrestling move), and in 2013-14 (before again getting crushed by THE STEVENAGE, 4-0). This season, they made it to the Second Round Proper yet again, before losing at home to fifth-tier Eastleigh, who were the only fifth-level team left in the FA Cup this season, but tied (drew) Bolton Wanderers, 1-1, in Eastleigh, thus they have a replay in a week at Bolton. They are the smallest minnow left this year.

#9: HENDON F.C. (Isthmian League, Premier Division – 7th level) – 22 matches played.
Their crest is a wack ass sheep holding that English cross flag that skinheads love. In terms of the FA Cup, they made it to, but lost in the First Round Proper in both the 2010-11 and 2012-13 competitions. In fact, they were beat by Chelmsford City, #1 on this list, in that 2010-11 First Round Proper match.

#10: DOVER ATHLETIC F.C. (National League – 5th level) – 22 matches played.
They play at a wonderful elven lot called Crabble Athletic Ground, which has allowed them to make the Second Round Proper in 2013-14 (before losing at Milton Keynes Dons), and the Third Round Proper in 2010-11 (before losing at Huddersfield Town) and 2014-15 (losing at their magical home grounds this time, to Premier League team Crystal Palace). This season, they were knocked out in the First Round Proper by that scrappy team from Stourbridge listed two spots above.

#11: CHELSEA F.C. (Premier League – top level) – 22 matches played.
Chelsea is a famous team, with a lot of suck ass fans, and had been having a marvelously horrible season before they sacked their sour-faced manager Jose Mourinho, and now their players decided to start playing. They had won the Premier League last season, but won’t be doing that this year, firmly embedded in the lower half, though a run like you’d expect from the money they spend could push them back up towards the top six. Still though, such a team is the perfect candidate to win the FA Cup, because they won’t get an automatic spot into the European Champions League, so they can sneak a spot into the Europa League (second level of intercontinental club shit in Europe), and make that big intercontinental money. For the most part though, I am like, “Fuck Chelsea.” In terms of the actual FA Cup the previous five seasons, they won it in 2011-12, beating Liverpool, 2-1, in the Wembley Stadium final, and lost in the semifinals in 2012-13 to Manchester City. Last year, they were shocked in the Fourth Round Proper, at home, losing to Bradford City, 2-4. This past weekend, they dominated Scunthorpe United, 2-0, at home, and have been drawn to play at the winner of the Northampton Town/Milton Keynes Dons replay in this season’s Fourth Round.

#12: MANCHESTER CITY F.C. (also Premier League – also top level) – also 22 matches played.
I don’t care much for Manchester City either, in fact, I don’t like most of the ridiculously wealthy teams in the Premier League, or anywhere to be honest. Fuck wealth. Manchester City won the FA Cup in 2010-11, beating Stoke City, 1-0, in the Wembley final. They returned to the final in 2012-13, losing somewhat of a shocker to Wigan Athletic, 0-1. They then lost to Wigan again the following year, in the quarterfinals. Last season, they were upset by Middlesbrough in the Fourth Round, and this past weekend, they crushed fellow Premier League team Norwich City, 3-0, in Norwich. The next round, they will play at whoever wins the Aston Villa/Wycombe Wanderers replay.

#13: NORTH GREENFORD UNITED F.C. (Southern Football League, Division One Central – 8th level) – 21 matches played.
They’ve not ever made it to the Proper tournament, but these scrappy little fuckers from the north end of Greenford have made it through multiple qualifying rounds, over the likes of Felixstowe & Walton United, Bedfont Town, Dunstable Town, Wokingham & Emmbrook, Hanworth Villa, and the Northampton Sileby Rangers. This season though, they were knocked out early by those bastards from Mildenhall Town.

#14: SOUTH PARK F.C. (Isthmian League, Division One South – 8th level as well) – 21 matches played as well.
They are The Sparks, and their crest is just a fuckin’ tree. They’ve existed since 1897, but only after combining with a nearby club called Reigate Town, and some home field improvements (“the installation of floodlights and new changing rooms” says Wikipedia), did they ever get to a high enough level to play even in the preliminary rounds of FA Cup qualifying. in 2012-13, they played nine matches total, away and then home replay against Cobham, home then away replay against Walton & Hersham, won an away match against Lancing, home then away replay against Harefield United, home win against Brentwood Town, before succumbing at home to the Metropolitan Police, 0-3. This year, they made it to the 2nd Qualifying Round before they got crushed at Maidstone United, 2-6. Thankfully, I made it to the end of this, too. If you made it this far, I got no idea what the fuck why.

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