The draw for the 5th round of the FA Cup has been made, and Aston Villa will travel to face the winner of the replay between Manchester City and Notts County at the Eastlands. Notts County gave their flashier, wealthier neighbors just about all they could handle in earning a draw at Meadow Lane, but it's tough to see them doing the same as the away side.
No matter how well they played today, the possibility of the League One Magpies managing to pull off the upset seems remotes enough that it's probably fair to assume Villa will be playing Manchester City. If Notts County can pull off the upset this looks like a terrific draw for Villa, but in the far more likely scenario it's a poor bit of luck indeed. Of the sixteen teams remaining, six of them play below the Premier League with three playing in League One and one (Crawley Town) playing in Conference. Instead, Villa will be facing one of the three best teams remaining in the competition and who delivered a 4-0 thumping the last time they played host to the claret and blue. Obviously much has changed since then, but the fact remains; this is a pretty lousy draw.
One of the better stories of this year's FA Cup to this point has been Conference National Crawley Town's unlikely run, and they are now set to face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the round of 16. Also called the Red Devils, Crawley Town's home ground holds just under 5,000. Crawley, West Sussex, where the team is based, has a population just over 100,000. For comparisons sake, Old Trafford seats just shy of 76,000. This is easily the biggest game in the 115 year history of Crawley Town F.C. This is a club that has never tasted league football and until 2005 was semi-professional. Without seeing the figures it is impossible to say for certain, but the possibility that half the gate from a match at Old Trafford (even a half-full Old Trafford) could equal or surpass the day-of-game income the club brings in from every other match this season. It's one of the reasons the FA Cup is such a fantastic competition. Crawley Town has undergone its share of financial difficulty these past few years and such a massive payday will be a huge boon to their future. Drawing Manchester United at Old Trafford was at least partially responsible for allowing Exeter City to escape spiraling debt and a possible winding-up. Sure, the odds are good that United will absolutely massacre Crawley Town, but the fact that the club's supporters and players will get both the thrill of seeing their club at Old Trafford and at least some sense of financial security going forward is pretty fantastic. (Edit: Or maybe not. See this fantastic post from Gary Andrews at Two Footed Tackle for more information.)
A full list of the 5th Round matchups, fixtures to be played February 19th and 20th:
- West Ham United vs. Burnley
- Notts County-Manchester City Replay Winner vs. Aston Villa
Stoke City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Birmingham City vs. Sheffield Wednesday
- Leyton Orient vs. Arsenal
Everton-Chelsea Replay Winner vs. Reading
- Manchester United vs. Crawley Town
- Fulham vs. Bolton-Wigan Replay Winner