Spytty the dog and Portsmouth fans left dreaming after wonderful weekend of enduring FA Cup magic

Pompey fans were in fine voice during and after Saturday's FA Cup trip to Norwich Picture; Joe Pepler
Pompey fans were in fine voice during and after Saturday's FA Cup trip to Norwich Picture; Joe Pepler
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For those footballing romantics among us, it has always been the greatest club knockout tournament in world football.

Certainly for those, like me, who grew up during an era when the third round of the Football Association Challenge Cup was one of the greatest days of the sporting calendar.

It was a time before Rupert Murdoch and the national media ganged up to try to rewrite history - to persuade us that football only really mattered in a post-1992 landscape. 

Today, the Premier League –  if you believe the hype – is the only domestic competition worth getting excited about.

And apart from the occasional, dramatic changing of the guard – Leicester City winning the title in 2016, Bournemouth hitting the top 10 on the back of crowds of around 10,000 – then there is very little romance in a competition dominated by obscene amounts of filthy lucre.

In contrast, the FA Cup has lost a lot of the appeal it once possessed.

Now, top-flight clubs enthusiastically take the chance to field much-changed starting XIs in order to keep the star names fresh for the games that really matter. Premier League games, of course.

Some of our biggest clubs have stockpiled such a dazzling array of talent that even a reserve team is too good – witness Manchester City and Tottenham both romping to 7-0 victories in the third round.

But, thankfully, the FA Cup still possesses the ability to remind us all why we fell in love with Pele's beautiful game as youngsters – because football can thrill, can excite, can surprise and can produce raw emotions like no other sport.

Distilled down to its essence, that is the FA Cup.

The FA Cup is League Two Newport beating 2016 Premier League champs Leicester 2-1 at a rocking Rodney Parade.

The sight of Newport's mascot – Spytty the dog with his big flappy ears – dancing with a corner flag in front of a section of ecstatic home fans. 

THAT is football.

League Two Oldham, who lost 6-0 at Carlisle on Boxing Day, scoring a late winner at Premier League strugglers Fulham.

THAT too is football.

Gloriously, Oldham's caretaker boss – youth team manager Pete Wild – is a lifelong Latics supporter and had actually bought a ticket for the away seats at Craven Cottage before he was catapulted into the hot seat. 

THAT is the magic of the FA Cup for you. 

Wonderful, isn't it?

National League Barnet are 84 places below Championship high-fliers Sheffield United, but they still produced a shock 1-0 victory in south Yorkshire.

Position-wise, it's the same as the Hawks going to Fulham and winning. 

THAT is the magic of the FA Cup.

Compared to the results I've mentioned, Pompey's impressive victory at Norwich wasn't as seismic.

But it was still a hell of a result – don't let anyone tell you otherwise – and it's left the Fratton faithful dreaming.

Dreaming of a home tie, perhaps, against Saints – a repeat of the 1984 fourth round tie at Fratton, but with a different result. Or dreaming of a trip to Old Trafford, the Etihad, the Emirates, or Wembley to face Tottenham – the sort of draw in which to showcase to a nation that there is a fresh heartbeat pumping through the veins of Portsmouth FC these days, and that Pompey are on the way back.

A League One promotion challenge doesn't really do that, but an FA Cup run is different. That is why the tournament still matters.

Despite Rupert Murdoch's best efforts, it still matters. And for that, all football fans - and I include Leicester, Fulham and Sheffield United supporters in this - should be truly grateful.

To appreciate the highs in football, you have to have experienced the lows. If you haven't, you're not a proper supporter. The FA  provides the ultimate in both, and I hope to God it always will ...