DON’T let the cynics convince you that the FA Cup has lost its aura.
I‘ve witnessed it in action. It takes something special to persuade a collection of Huddersfield Town, Bradford City and Leeds United fans to sing from the same hymn sheet.
They added their voices to the massed ranks of Guiseley AFC supporters in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round encounter with FC Halifax Town.
Guiseley and Halifax fought hammer and tongs over 210 minutes for the honour of playing in the first round of a competition which some believe is past its best.
I was at the match with my wife, a York City fan, because Guiseley are our second-favourite team.
The prospect of a Tuesday night cup tie was too good to resist.
Sitting behind us was a father and son, who were both Bradford City fans, and there was also a group of Leeds United fans close by.
I’m a Huddersfield Town fan, and in normal circumstances this cosmopolitan collection of supporters would have been segregated and, at the very least, exchanging hard stares.
But – for one night at least – we were as one. The FA Cup had worked its magic.
Guiseley lost to a cruelly-deflected goal deep in extra-time.
At the end of it all, both sides looked utterly drained. Something significant really had been at stake.
There are two observations to be made.
Firstly, that the FA Cup still means an awful lot to teams outside the Football League and their fans.
There were almost 1,000 people crammed inside Guiseley’s Nethermoor ground that night.
Secondly, there is much to be said for cultivating an interest in teams on your doorstep who aren’t necessarily at the top of the football pyramid.
This point was reinforced in September when we watched Guiseley and Woking participate in a pulsating 4-4 draw in the National League. Both sides tore into the game with reckless, carefree abandon.
The score could easily have been 12-12 and Guiseley almost won it with the last kick of the match.
Both sides seemed to believe that a defence was a blot on the beautiful game.
It was a glorious, stirring spectacle, like watching a cavalry charge down Otley Chevin.
It made you pity supporters of big clubs, who are burdened with colossal costs and the tedious, grating sense of entitlement.
Here were two sides who were just happy to be on the pitch and scrapping for points. In the grand scheme of things, the Guiseley-Woking encounter hardly caused ripples.
But it was the perfect antidote to the stale spectacles played out by many of their peers.
That is why the FA Cup first round should be celebrated. For many sides, just getting there is a life’s work.
It also shows that the media’s obsession with the elite clubs is misguided.
They don’t know where the real drama lies.