Women’s FA Cup Quarter-Finals: How It Is Feels To Be David And Goliath

The quarter-final draw for the FA Cup took place recently. With baited breath everyone waited (and waited) for the numbers to fall to see who would be paired with who.

As it stands the ‘big’ three all face different opponents. Fix! Some cry, the draw is random others shout. Those tend to be fans of the so called big three. However, the draw everyone was looking forward to was that of Ipswich Town. The little engine that could, having played extended rounds and beating Southampton on pens, putting the club into the quarters, further than they have ever gone before.

Finally, their opponent’s ball dropped and it was ball 4 WSL side, West Ham United.

This article is talk from the less heard side that of the 'top' dog side, in a David and Goliath match up. A genuine opinion piece on what goes in the mind of fans when a draw like this is called. Plus what it feels like to be public enemy number one.

When you look at the teams left in the pool, there are teams you definitely do not wish to face. Teams that have battered you in the past, teams that have a squad depth deeper than the ocean. Everyone wants the best shot they can have at getting to the next stage.

As a West Ham fan, I did not want Chelsea who had already knocked us out of the Conti Cup quarter-finals and the semi-finals a year prior. I did not want Arsenal as we have had no luck against the Gunners since our promotion to the WSL. Manchester City and Everton have been hit and miss. So this leaves Birmingham. Coventry and of course Ipswich. These as a fan give you the best shot, not a guaranteed shot, but a better shot.

So it cannot be denied when you pull a team in a lower division then you, as a fan you can’t help but get excited. Not because you think it’s bye into the next round, although some fans may think so. But because you can still have hope. When you pull a team you have played multiple times over the years you can pretty much predict how it will go. Which with the previously mentioned teams is a sense of dread, desperation and overall a defeatist attitude.

With a team you have never played before there is a sense of adventure, excitement at the unknown and as mentioned hope. You go into the game with a more positive attitude with this sense of mystery.

West Ham has form having got to the finals in our first season but has yet to replicate that achievement. In fact, it’s the first time they have managed to progress into the quarter-finals since that year.

Photos: @ITFCwomen and @WestHamWomen

The trap you have to be careful of is cockiness, to feel that it is your divine right to progress further as you are the top flight team and they are in a lower league to yourself. The great white shark to the tiny minnow. Previously West Ham have been accused of this when they gave goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold a run out in a cup match versus Chichester and Selsey. Arnold was coming back from injury so, the club did not want to risk her for the full 90 minutes. Which would be fine except they decided the run out should be in midfield instead of in between the sticks. West Ham fans could not see an issue with this at the time, however, their opponents felt disrespected. Claiming that the club would not have taken such a risk against higher-ranked opposition. Which in all honesty is probably true, clubs take bigger risks against the clubs that are ranked lower than them.

We see across the league, with the teams who feel a victory is guaranteed, playing players who may be considered second string to give them to minutes. This author lovingly calls it ‘second keepering’. Meaning a team is willing to play the second string keeper as they don’t feel your strikers are that much of a threat. It can be insulting and demeaning and having been a victim of it I would never want my club to be part of that practice. However, it seems to be the way of the footballing world at the moment. Blame a packed schedule with smaller squads, blame an overhyped sense of ego. Either way it is a prevailing view within the game.

You do feel like public enemy number one when you play the lower-ranked teams. Which as a West Ham fan is very odd as we are normally very much the underdog. Everyone supports the underdog, the cup is built on it. We want these teams to go as far as they can and knock out the big guns until your team are one of those big guns.

To bring Men’s football into it for a moment. When West Ham men beat Kidderminster Harriers in the last round of the FA Cup. All press was based on how close they had come to the greatest cup upset. No one wanted West Ham to win, even more people than the usual Chelsea and Millwall fans at least.

In this match up, I would wager most neutrals want Ipswich to win. After their demolishing against their last FA WSL team Manchester City. This is a chance for redemption, to show growth and the world wants to see this.

So here is to the magic of the FA Cup, may the best team win. And most importantly. COME ON YOU IRONS!