London (AFP) – England hero Geoff Hurst is convinced that this season’s upset results prove the ‘magic of the FA Cup’ is still there, despite some clubs fielding under-strength line-ups.
Non-League clubs Lincoln and Sutton have both made it through to this weekend’s last 16, while Fulham, Millwall, Oxford and Wolves have all beaten clubs from divisions above them to get to the fifth round.
Hurst is best remembered for scoring three goals in England’s 4-2 1966 World Cup final win over West Germany at Wembley, with his treble still the only hat-trick in a World Cup final.
But two years earlier the West Ham striker was on target in another showpiece Wembley match when the Hammers beat Preston in the 1964 FA Cup final.
Hurst, 75, still retains a huge affection for the world’s oldest senior knockout football competition, even if that is not always shared by current managers.
“Yes, it is disappointing when the big clubs, even with the big squads, don’t put their best teams out, but it is still an enjoyable weekend watching it,” he said.
“For the clubs who are creating the upsets, it is not a question of ‘well, we are only there because they did not play the best teams’, all of these clubs are just as thrilled and excited to get through those ties and into the next round, probably more so than anybody else because the smaller clubs have a huge opportunity.
“It is the biggest things in their lives and for them it is fantastic.”
Hurst added that Monday’s fifth-round clash, which sees 12-times FA Cup winners Arsenal, fresh from a 5-1 thrashing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, travelling to non-league Sutton’s Gander Green Lane ground, had the potential to produce another upset.
“It is a day which Sutton and their supporters will remember for the rest of their lives, whatever happens, to be this far in the competition and playing Arsenal,” said Hurst. “That is the beauty of the FA Cup for the smaller clubs.”
He added: “It will be a great experience for them to play against Arsenal, and it will be a difficult game for the Gunners — we have seen this season the shocks are still there in the FA Cup, and this could be another one.”