Reading striker Dave Kitson has been quoted on the BBC saying "We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not care less about it, to be honest. I care about staying in the Premier League, as does everybody at this club. Our league status is not protected by winning the FA Cup - simple as that". It seems to me a sad state of affairs that staying in the top division is so much more important than the chance to win the longest running domestic cup competition in the world. It's an indication of exactly how much money is available to those clubs that remain in the so called elite league. Is it really worth the effort if all you have to look forward to is a yearly battle against relegation? Surely any Premier League side should fancy their chances of winning the cup and the glory of winning it is worth the gamble?
I would love to see Fulham compete in a second Wembley final, but I also accept that right now we DO need to focus on doing whatever is needed to turn our team around and try and stay in this division. That said I hope the team we field against Bristol Rovers plays with the pride and passion that the competition deserves. It seems that, yet again, we are faced with a tricky 3rd round Cup game at a time when we are at our most vulnerable. Last season we eventually navigated our way past Leicester City despite our best attempts to mess it up. The season before that we were well beaten at the Cottage by Leyton Orient.
The year we lost to Orient I had planned to put a bet, at very generous odds of 9-1, on Orient winning as a way of ensuring we didn't slip up. I didn't and felt a lurch in my stomach when the result finally came through. I'm very superstitious about football and I would never bet on Fulham to win, but feel quite comfortable doing the opposite in an attempt to swing things in our favour. Last year I DID bet on Leicester beating us at the Walker Stadium, we only drew but at least we weren't out. Today I have bet on both the draw and a Rovers win. It should do the trick, if it doesn't it's not for want of trying on my part! I've also had a sneaky bet on QPR to beat the Filth at 11-1, you never know!
The last time we met Bristol Rovers was in the 1998/99, when we completed the double over them on the way to winning the Division Two (now League One) Championship. Most Fulham fans will have stronger memories of the 1989 playoff matches. Rovers beat us in both games including a miserable 4-0 victory at Craven Cottage. The Pirates are currently sitting in the lower reaches of League One, following their playoff success last term. Having beaten Orient and Rushden & Diamonds in the previous rounds of the cup, they will be fired up for an encounter with a struggling Premier League side. Ex-Fulham midfielder Paul Trollope is manager and, whilst not being the most loved player during his spell at the Cottage, is sure to receive a decent welcome from the home fans on Sunday. All the ingredients are there for an upset, I just hope come four o'clock we're still in the hat for the next round draw.