Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.

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Is this the end for Matthew Bates?

Matthew Bates may be the unluckiest player in football at the minute as he has suffered a cruciate ligament injury for the fifth time in his career.

Bates has struggled with injuries his whole career

The injury will keep the promising centre back on the sidelines for yet another six months and it will be very difficult for the player to keep up his own moral and spirits as he may not come back the player he has been this season.

The 25 year old has been at Middlesbrough his whole career so far but was linked with moves away last summer and Swansea in particular were very keen on giving him a chance in the Premier League. He had hoped that his form would propel Boro up the league table and challenge for promotion this season and play for his boyhood club again in the Premier League against the big teams like Manchester United and Arsenal.

He actually made his debut in the 2004-05 season and has only played 120 games for the club which is remarkable and shows just how much his injuries have slowed down his career. This season, it looked as though he had got over all of his problems as he had played more than ever before in a single season and was named new captain by manager Tony Mowbray who must have seen similarities in the way Bates plays and the way he was when he was a player for Boro. Even more worrying for the player is that his contract is up at the end of the season and his latest setback will keep him out until October so no other team will want to take a chance on him. He will have to hope that Boro will give him another opportunity to get fit or there is a chance that he may never get a chance in the professional game again.

Personally I hope he does because he has proven this season that he is at least good enough for the Championship and was looking very consistent as Boro pushed for a place in the playoff spots. Not only is it a bad thing for the player personally but for the club as well because they don’t have the biggest of squads anyway and would have needed all their players to be fit from now until the end of the season. They have recalled Stephen McManus from his loan spell at Bristol City but this will not fill the fans with confidence because he came with quite a good reputation from his time in Scotland but has not really delivered. However, if he does step up and has a good end to the season he could easily become a fans favourite and may be first choice at the start of next season which will then lead to the question, do we need Matthew Bates? Injuries are a cruel part of the game and it has ruined many players’ careers but to have the same sort of major injury five times has got to be hard for anyone but at least he knows he can come back, let’s just hope it is to a good standard.