the real fa cup

Bluffers Guide: 3rd Round Day

Ahhh, the FA Cup 3rd Round, the stage at which we usually bow out. We now leave it to the Henry Winter’s of this world to wax lyrical about their favourite round of the Cup!  But, where we stop our non league journey, you can carry on and bluff your way through the rarified air of the FA Cup 3rd round, you only need know a few important things.

Rule 1: NEVER, EVER, Mention ‘The Scottish Goal’.

Firstly, before we get on to what actually is the 3rd Round, you must not, at any juncture, refer to ‘The Scottish Goal’.  It is so-called after the luvvies old wive’s tale about Macbeth (I can mention it, I am not an actor – MACBETH, MACBETH, MACBETH) which dear old thespians will only call ‘The Scottish Play’ out of some hilariously misguided belief that it can damn any production by the mere force of magic held within the play’s name.


R***** R******’, as you probably haven’t heard, scored ‘The Scottish Goal’ for Hereford United against a much, much bigger side.  So earth-shatteringly important and caked in bucolic mud was that goal it became a bye-word for cupsettery nationwide. These days, merely mentioning the name of the goalscorer in a pub can result in your alleged friends never talking to you again. You will be looked down upon as some johnny-come-lately Manchester City fan and be sent to Coventry City (more of whom later), if that isn’t mixing footballing metaphors. You will be shunned, don’t put yourself through it.

The 3rd Round:
The third FA Cup round is seen by luminaries like Henry as the first and best round of the FA’s Old Jug.  Contrary to that popular belief, that is not the case. You would, more accurately, think there were no fewer than TWO rounds before it but you would also be wrong. There are eight.  Capiche? No, well, it doesn’t matter, come back to us next August and we’ll explain.

The third round is where the 44 teams in England’s two highest leagues enter the competition. Yes, you’re right, it does seem odd that the best teams in the land only have to play six games to win the Cup while the less able to win it have to, errr, win 14 games to win it.  This is an anomaly and we are seeking to right that wrong in the Fake FA Cup.

Rule 2: Don’t Bait Your Breath For A ‘Fairytale’ Tie.

The third round draw is famous for the rabid anticipation of neutrals and fans of non league sides that David will get pitted against the Premier League’s Goliaths. More often than not, the anticipation gives way to hideous disappointment when Dulwich Hamlet get drawn against Barnet. Although it doesn’t happen every season, over the last ten seasons it has averaged out to about one a year, with York & Barrow making it twice each and Man United twice being drawn against non league sides, on both occasions giving the minnows a lucrative replay. Let it not be said that Suralex isn’t a charitable fellow with the FA Cup buried deep inside his cold, cold heart.

Rule 3: Non League Sides Never Beat Top Flight Sides*.

Which leads us on to the folkloric and near mythical 3rd Round non league victory over a top flight opponent.  Know yer onions.  In short, this NEVER HAPPENS.  Since football was invented in 1992, a non league side has never beaten Premier League opponents. For those of you who have read our Bluffers Guide to Football (not yet written), you will know football did exist before 1992 and, when it did, ‘The Scottish Goal’ was scored. But, as we can’t mention that, non league Sutton United beat Coventry City 2-1 on the 7th January 1989.

After going 1-0 up through a goal by captain Tony Rains, Sutton were pegged back by the recent FA Cup winners via the functional but effective boot of Welsh international Dave Phillips. What happened next can be viewed here as Matt Hanlan put Sutton back in front and the U’s defence stubbornly repelled Coventry’s Elephantine forward line of Cyrille Regis and … errr David Speedie. It was only the third time since 1949 that such a feat of non league joy had occurred.

Rule 4: Avoid Electricians But Still Buy A Rattle. They Are Nice, Aren’t They?

If whatever half-arsed broadcaster is doing the Cup in a given year deigns to actually broadcast the ‘fairytale’ tie, they are contractually obliged to obsessively gen-up on the occupations of the non league side and refer to them at every opportunity. Headline writers are encouraged to sharpen their typing fingers and search frantically for clever words to use in the event that Roger Beckwith-Steele, the nippy winger-electrician from Chigley Town, scores a goal against Chelsea. “Sparky Steele Electrifies Bridge”, “Live Wire Roger Smashes Terry’s Back Doors In” … OK, train of thought was re-routed via Stoke on the second one. Still, you should always buy a rattle. If you can’t buy one, talk about them, with a whimsical, reflective air.

Rule 5: Make A Tinfoil Cup.

Finally, if your team happens to make it to the FA Cup 3rd Round you MUST make a tinfoil cup and this is how you do it:

  1. Search Google images for ‘FA CUP’.
  2. Copy and paste image to Word and print out on A3 sized paper.
  3. Glue FA Cup image to an A3 sized piece of sturdy card.
  4. Cut round image of FA Cup
  5. Cover Cup in tinfoil.
  6. Adorn tinfoil Cup with your team colours: try a scarf or rosette.
  7. Take tinfoil Cup to your team’s 3rd Round game
  8. Trudge home with tinfoil cup trailing behind you after dismal loss to lower league relegation fodder.
  9. Drop tinfoil cup in the gutter of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
  10. Repeat next year.

There you have it, you are now equipped to either go to a game or enter a pub, grab your cold, crisp Budweiser and chat shit with the frothing-mouthed aesthetes in your local on FA Cup 3rd Round day.  You’re welcome. Don’t mention it. No, really, it’s fine, we’re here to help.

The 3rd Round of the FA Cup, reassuringly expensive. Enjoy the draw.

Tinfoil Cup Image Courtesy Danny Last


  1. I’ve followed your site for the last 2 seasons. I have thoroughly enjoyed every article I’ve read since – although I still don’t get the point of the fake FA cup. Is reality not sufficient? Anyway, you’ve inspired me to go to every cup match possible and it’s burgeoning a greater magnetism to non league, often at the expense of the team I follow (Leicester), bringing me to countless (OK, about 20) new grounds.
    But why stop here? Why not follow the cup until all the non league clubs are out? Or recognise the significance of Division 2 and 3 sides facing premiership opposition on equal terms, and bow out when it’s a strictly premier and championship affair? I’m off to Harrogate town v Hastings on Saturday in the 2nd round “proper” (not sure why ITV needed to insist on moving the kickoff to 1pm to compile their highlights package, but I’m sure the clubs are doing quite well out of it – in any case I digress), and the winner may well get a life changing cash injection. I don’t understand why when the money and promise becomes greatest, the best FA cup blog out there is no longer involved.

    • Firstly, thanks for your many comments and kind words. Secondly, there is no real point to the Fake FA Cup. However, it was born out of a Twitter conversation about how people would improve the FA Cup and also to see if people would do something more creative with match reports than the usual, which they did. Whether we carry it on, well, we’ll see, maybe not.

      In response to your second point, we set up this site because the early rounds of the FA Cup get very little coverage, while the later rounds get a huge amount. There is little point us following the FA Cup after round 2 or 3 because it is covered elsewhere in great detail, so we tend to stop at Round 2 or 3 unless we just fancy it.

      We’re glad we’ve been of some small inspiration and thanks again for commenting!

      Fake FA Cup Round up and rules here

      Cheers, Damon.

  2. Loving the FA Cup – the first round, second and third are just great to watch with all those teams scrapping it out and lower league clubs. It’s the epitome of English football

  3. Whar is the point of therealfacup???
    Simple…if this blog sis not exist there would be not home kit sponsor for Ellis Green! : Sponsors of Eliis Green, Dulwich Hamlet FC, 2012/13!

  4. Bloody typo…I should look at the keyboard when I type…even ‘did not exist’ Grr!

  5. Rule 3 has been slightly undermined by the Norwich City 0-1 Luton Town game in January. Great article, though.

    • Certainly has, we should not have covered that game! Though Luton beating Norwich still doesn’t sound very non-league, even after they’ve been Conference for quite a while now.

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