By Brian Sears
17 February 2011
With the FA Cup fifth round taking centre stage in English football this weekend, it still remains possible that a record low number of Premier League teams (one) could make it to the sixth round, or a joint-record high number, namely all eight of eight quarter-finalists.
For the ‘romantic’ dream of mostly non-Premier League sides to go through, we would need Sheffield Wednesday to beat Birmingham, Brighton to beat Stoke, Crawley to beat Manchester United, Orient to beat Arsenal and Burnley to beat West Ham. On top of that, we’d need Reading to beat the winners of the fourth-round replay between Everton and Chelsea, and Notts County to beat Manchester City in their fourth-round replay, and then beat Aston Villa in the fifth round.
But as of right now, there is only one absolutely guaranteed berth in the quarter-finals for a Premier League side – the winner of this weekend’s fifth-round match between Fulham and Bolton.
Yes, yes. Of course the odds and the relative status of clubs make it more plausible that the last eight will comprise Birmingham, Stoke, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Bolton (or Fulham) – or an all-Prem quarter-final line-up, in other words. That last happened in 2005-06, and before that in 2001-02 and 1995-96. See table below for full details of year-by-year progression of Premier League teams.
The fewest number of Premier League teams in the quarter-finals (aka the sixth round), has been four, most recently in 2007-08.
But 10 Premier League sides have already left this season’s Cup competition. Four have fallen to lower league opponents and the other six went out in Prem v Prem confrontations. City have still to overcome Notts County in Sunday’s fourth-round replay to ensure a 10th Premier League club in the fifth round
This season, all the remaining sides below Premier League status have been drawn against Premier League opposition. But the luck of the draw has decidedly gone against the underdog. Five of the lower league “Davids” have to travel to Premier League dens: the Owls, Seagulls, Red Devils (that’s Crawley), Clarets and Royals. Only Leyton Orient are assured a home fixture when they entertain Arsenal. County will play Villa at home should they conquer City.
Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday, Crawley and Notts County have yet to knock out a Premier League club from the FA Cup. But Leyton Orient (once), Burnley (four times) and Reading (five times) have giant killings in their past to encourage them. Here are the occasions.
ENCOURAGEMENT for Leyton Orient
8 Jan 2006 Fulham 1 L Orient 2 (3R)
MORE ENCOURAGEMENT for Burnley
10 Dec 1999 Derby 0 Burnley 1 (3R )
26 Feb 2003 Burnley 3 Fulham 0 (5R replay)
18 Jan 2005 Burnley 1 Liverpool 0 (3R)
3 Feb 2009 Burnley 3 West Brom 1 (4R replay)
EVEN MORE ENCOURAGEMENT for Reading
4 Jan 1997 Reading 3 Southampton 1 (3R)
17 Jan 2006 Reading 3 West Brom 2 aet (3R replay)
13 Jan 2010 Liverpool 1 Reading 2 (3R replay)
23 Jan 2010 Reading 1 Burnley 0 (4R)
8 Jan 2011 Reading 1 West Brom 0 (3R)