Since we can’t actually go to any of the FA Cup 5th Round games this year, we have to settle for seeing them on TV. While you’re watching, we at Groundhopper Guides thought we would share a little of what we know about each club, especially the home teams, and what it is (or would be) like to see a game there.
So let’s call this a groundhopping preview of the FA Cup 5th Round.
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First, if you’re in the US like us, the place to watch the FA Cup is ESPN+.
Now, let’s imagine we were on a groundhopping tour of England to watch the FA Cup 5th Round fixtures in person.
FA Cup Round 5: Tuesday, February 9
First up is Bournemouth away to Burnley at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Bournemouth are a rather amazing story, from nearly relegated from League Two — and thus out of business — in 2009 to the Premier League in 2014. (Related: How does promotion and relegation work in English soccer?) They are back in the Championship now, which at least means you don’t have to be lucky as hell to get a ticket there, like I was. Their hosts on the day are Burnley, whose Turf Moor ground seems quite completely unchanged from the early 20th century. Burnley is a city of about 75,000 people, and the Clarets’ continuing existence in the Premier League is rather amazing — and is why they renamed a pub across Yorkshire Street for their current manager.
Turf Moor is featured (starting at 5:50) in our video on the historic football stadiums of England:
The second game that day, which I’m sure most of the media attention will be on, has West Ham at Manchester United at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The Hammers are doing better than usual in the Premier League, and Manchester United just might be on the way back up. With Burnley being just outside of Manchester, I might have attempted a goofy groundhopping doubleheader for this one; Manchester is a great place to make your base for groundhopping adventures anyway. When you go, be sure to tour Old Trafford, hit up Chinatown and the Curry Mile, and visit the world’s greatest football shirt shop.
This fixture would have also been a real mess in the bad old hooligan days, and in fact played an important part in the movie Green Street Hooligans.
FA Cup 5th Round: Wednesday, February 10
We start with Swansea City vs Manchester City at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Swansea is a place that English people, especially, like to make fun of. Not only is it in South Wales, thus igniting a bit of a culture war, it also got bombed to the ground in the actual war, so it lacks a certain historical flair. Still, I enjoyed myself there, visiting what’s left of their old ground, having a great Chinese meal, and heading out along the coast to a town called, amazingly, Mumbles. Their stadium is a shiny new thing where, even should the Swans manage to score a goal, we sadly won’t experience anything like this:
Bristol City visit Sheffield United at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, and I confess I would have gone to this one rather than Swansea. Sheffield is a really cool city, particularly since you can take a city bus to the Peak District for a lovely walk before the game. My first-ever FA Cup groundhopping trip was, in 2014, to “Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane,” though on that day it appeared to be a muddy, windswept place half-filled with frustrated fans singing to each other about going down. This sign on the wall enchanted me, though:
When you go to Sheffield, stop in for a greasy chip butty on London Road, and tell the Blades fans hello from the American who shot the video they are all in love with.
A nod, as well, to the city of Bristol, which hosts two clubs in a terrific place to spend some time.
Also at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, it’s Brighton and Hove Albion at Leicester City. The homestanding Foxes are, of course, best known for winning the Premier League in 2016, during which season I went to a game there against Manchester City. Although a nil-nil standoff, it was among the most intense sporting experiences of my life. Leicester isn’t the most exciting city to visit, but there’s a nice medieval quarter, the stadium is right in town, and they have one of the all-time great pregame rituals in English football:
I wonder if they’ll do that in an empty stadium?
Another nod here to the city of Brighton, where basically all of London goes to the beach. It’s a cool Victorian city with a nice seafront, a wonderful little neighborhood called The Lanes, and a very historic town called Lewes right next door.
The final game on Wednesday has Tottenham at Everton at 5:15 p.m. Eastern. For me, seeing a game at Everton is as much about the ground itself as it is the club or the city. Goodison Park is called the Grand Old Lady, and for good reason; they used to build places like this, but not anymore.
Here’s a shot from the touchline during the highly-recommended Goodison Park stadium tour:
Can you hear that Scouser accent? If you can’t, check out this guy who dropped in on our tour!
FA Cup 5th Round: Thursday, February 11
The final day of this round kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern with Southampton at Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose Molineux Stadium has the distinction, at least for me, of having the highest concentration of pubs between it and the local stadium of any place I’ve ever been. You can get to know Wolves here, and check out the list of pubs I saw on my visit. Otherwise, most of the “must see” list in town has to do with the Industrial Revolution (they specialized in locks!), so if that’s not your thing, go on back to Birmingham and get a proper Balti.
We wrap up with Chelsea visiting Barnsley at 3 p.m. Eastern. One would expect the Blues to basically conquer and move on, much as I found out the Romans did when I visited the Barnsley museum. Honestly, it said it right there in the display: “The Romans passed through.” I suppose they didn’t even bother conquering anything.
Barnsley is in Yorkshire, and the Tykes, as they are known (it seems to be a local term for something like a sly dog) are justy barely in the Championship this season; they got up there from League One in 2019 and stayed up last season by a solitary point. But I love their old-school ground, Oakwell (above), and the local citizens were both surprised and pleased, in a very humble Yorkshire kind of way, that this American had come to see them play.
When is the Draw for the FA Cup 6th Round (Quarterfinals)?
The draw for the 6th Round (quarterfinals) of the 2020-21 FA Cup will be held February 11. Those games will happen the weekend of March 20.
The FA Cup semifinals will be at Wembley Stadium on the weekend of April 17-18. The Final is May 15, also at Wembley.