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Watford 1 v 1 Southampton
FA Cup
Sunday, 28th January 2024 Kick-off 14:00
Southampton V Watford The FA Cup Preview
Sunday, 28th Jan 2024 07:45

Saints travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford hoping for a repeat of the 2003 FA Cup semi final when they beat the Hornets 2-1 in the semi final at Villa Park, but will either side be taking it as seriously as they did back then.

It is hard to believe that the victory over Watford in the semi final of the FA Cup at Villa Park was 21 years ago, back then in the main sides still took the FA Cup very seriously, yes in the early rounds there were the odd changes to give squad players a game, but in the main the bulk of Saints line up's in the cup back then were first choice players.

For Saints at least that is not going to be the case when they kick off at Watford today, it is likely that there could be as many as 9 changes from the side that won at Swansea City last weekend.

Sadly most Saints supporters won't be that bothered, gone are the days when a second tier club could hope to even reach Wembley, let alone win the final as we did in 1976, the early rounds might see the big guns put out weak sides, but by the semis they have Wembley in their sights and dash the FA Cup hopes of the minnows and put them in their place.

Back in 2003 Watford where a Championship side and the last time a side from outside the Premier League reached the final was 2008 when Cardiff lost to then Premier League Pompey 1-0.

That in itself was the firs time a club from outside of the top flight had reached the final since 1992 and the 1980 FA Cup win by West Ham was the last time that a team outside of the top flight won an FA Cup Final, in fact in the 48 years since Saints themselves won the FA Cup in 1976, 48 years to be exact, only those 3 sides have reached the final from outside of the highest echelon.

So the magic of the FA Cup is no more for the minnow, the chances of reaching a final are slim, just 3 finalists in 48 years, so it is no wonder that Russell Martin will not be that bothered if his Southampton side go out at Watford, for him there are other priorities.

Some Saints supporters will talk about how they would prefer to win the cup than be promoted, but it is just a fantasy, Voltaire said God is on the side of the big battalions and in modern day football it could be said that God is on the side of the richest owners.

So I don't think I am being speculative when I suggest that the line up Russell Martin puts out will bear little resemblance to the one that won in Wales last weekend, perhaps at best 2 players will be in the starting line up from last weekend.

Against Walsall in the 3rd round only Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Will Smallbone were first choice at the time although Ryan Fraser was just about to cement his starting place.

So our team at Vicarage Road will resemble that team more that last weeks at Swansea.

Joe Lumley will start in goal, the defence will probably Have Mason Holgate, assuming he is not off to have a medical somewhere, Jack Stephens, Jayden Meghoma and perhaps a first team regular.

The midfield will see Shea Charles & Joe Rothwell in the midfield and another first teamer perhaps Will Smallbone with Charly Alcatraz, Sekou Mara & Sam Amo - Ameyaw up front.

In fairness that isn't a bad line up, I have often said that what will be the difference come the end of the season will be the depth of our squad and i would say that none of our promotion rivals could put out a weakened side as strong as we can.

So yes an FA Cup run for us won't get in the way as much as it might, Ipswich or Leeds, although the Tractor Boys now don't have that distraction, so for us winning will have an advantage, the chance to gibe 8 or 9 fringe players a bit of game time.

Watford themselves will probably not put out a full side, so we still have a good chance of pulling off a win.

But ultimately history tells us we are just putting off the inevitable and that is an exit before the final game of the competition at Wembley, so defeat will be a disappointment but not a disaster.

If we lose then our 21 game unbeaten run will change to a 20 game unbeaten run in the League and for me that is the priority.

Photo: Action Images

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underweststand added 09:02 - Jan 28
Another chance for the "up-and-coming talents" and some minutes for the "also-rans" who often warm the bench every week. It may be a chance for them to show their best side, and a chance (in the event of injuries and the like) in the remaining League games.
Barring injury, or a new " star-signing " in the next few days, there is no way RM will want to change his (now 21) unbeaten side.
Watford were a tough ask for the first team a while ago, I see this as a real challenge for those "occasionals" who will be playing today. Getting a replay would be a good result, unless we can convert those half-chances more effectively, and win the game outright.

TimSaint added 09:24 - Jan 28
How about the 2004 final, when Millwall were runners-up ?

A1079 added 09:56 - Jan 28
The result I want obviously is a win, but the one outcome I don't want today is a draw.

felly1 added 10:45 - Jan 28
They've brought back Den Dennis on loan from Forest.
If he plays, I've got a feeling he'll tear us a new ars* hole.

Back where he felt wanted.. Loved.
Top player on his day.

Bowlercow added 11:08 - Jan 28
It has been a long time since a second tier team won the FA. cup.
It has also been a long time since a Saints side went 21(20)unbeaten

FrankSaint added 11:13 - Jan 28
What a lovely article. And a lovely reference to Voltaire. Perhaps the lesser importance of the FA Cup resulted in more meditative writing...

Boris1977 added 11:38 - Jan 28
Another important factor of who goes up is RM knowing his limitations and his squads strengths. Thankfully this league is full of average teams but if RM starts changing personnel, particularly the defence, on a cocky whim (I.e. at Swansea) we will be punished.

It's a shame that the FA cup has become a second rate competition but that's modern football. A club like Saints would love to win it but let's face it getting the millions of pounds and playing in the richest league in the world is much more important for owners of teams.



Centurion added 12:31 - Jan 28
I would not be disappointed if our second team went out with an honourable defeat. For example 2-1

Farlow added 13:28 - Jan 28
I,M Sure if we progress to the next round it would be quite an edge in attracting
our transfer targets.

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