Sean Dyche’s memories of the FA Cup will forever see the Burnley boss view the competition with great luster.
Indeed circumstances have forced the former defender to prioritise alternative games on the domestic schedule, with the Clarets bidding to preserve their Premier League status for the first time, but the magic of the country’s most revered and celebrated knockout will never diminish.
The 45-year-old reflected on his experiences in the competition ahead of his side’s third round replay against Sunderland at Turf Moor this evening, kick off 7-45 p.m.
Dyche was a part of the Chesterfield side that famously pushed a star-studded Middlesbrough outfit all the way in the semi-final at Old Trafford almost 20 years ago.
Facing Premier League opposition who fielded stars such as Gianluca Festa, Emerson, Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli, the Spireites, who were then competing in the old Second Division, surrendered a two-goal lead in a tie that finished 3-3 after extra-time.
Asked about the grandeur of the FA Cup, and whether he feels the competition is currently being undermined, Dyche said: “I certainly haven’t overthought doing the FA Cup down. I’ve had some fantastic occasions in it.
“A lot of football now is very media driven. The media drive on the Premier League is massive. The FA Cup can’t quite grab that, because you don’t get it every week. It happens when the rounds come around.
“The build-up will be really big then, and then it softens until the next round. I think that probably plays its part as well. It’s just the fact that it’s not driven into you constantly through the media streams.
“The fans I speak to certainly enjoy the FA Cup. If you look back, the early rounds were never really that well covered anyway. I played for teams in the lower leagues who were often part of those early rounds.
“As it grows and moves forward, it gets more exciting, more meaning on it, more purpose to it. It’s just the way it is. I just think the business side of football is so powerful now, particularly in the Premier League.”
Dyche thumped a penalty past Ben Roberts on the hour after Andy Morris had handed the underdogs, who had Clarets goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer between the posts, the lead.
Boro replied through Ravanelli before Chesterfield were dubiously denied a third as referee David Elleray failed to spot that Jonathan Howard’s shot had gone over the line after bouncing down off the underside of the crossbar.
Boro leveled in the 70th minute when Elleray penalised Dyche for a foul on Juninho inside the box and Craig Hignett dispatched the resulting spot kick to level.
Bryan Robson’s men took the lead for the first time courtesy of Festa in the additional period but Jamie Hewitt forced a replay with just seconds remaining.
“The Chesterfield game is the main one for obvious reasons,” he said. “The thing people forget about that is we had some tough games.
“One that people never remember is the game no-one wanted to lose, the quarter-final against Wrexham, nobody really mentions Wrexham now, but we still get a mention because we made the semi-final.
“But we beat Bolton in that season and that was the season they scored 100 goals and got 100 points. Nathan Blake was ripping it.
“We went away there and beat them. 3-2 looks like a game, we were 3-0 up, it was only in the last 10 minutes we managed to scramble anything out of it. That was a massive result.
“The other thing is I got there with Watford as well, but I’d been injured so I was sub for the Watford semi-final.
“I’ve got a good feeling about the FA Cup.”
Unfortunately Mikkel Beck, Ravanelli and Emerson saw the top flight outfit through to the final in the replay at Hillsborough. They went on to lose 2-0 against Chelsea at Wembley.
Dyche isn’t a man to have regrets but he does still ponder what might have been had Howard’s strike stood. Afterall it could’ve been the Turf Moor chief who was walking his side out under the iconic twin towers that once adorned the national stadium.
“I don’t do regrets,” he said. “You look at it another way and what an occasion. It was amazing, walking out at Old Trafford for a team like Chesterfield in the semi-final of the FA Cup and scoring a last 10 second goal to get through 3-3 in arguably one of the best semi-finals there has been.
“Why would you fill your head with regrets? With bad times? You fill them with good times and I remember those to be absolutely amazing.”
On Elleray, he joked: “I’ve definitely forgiven him for that because it would’ve been rubbish for me to walk out of Wembley as Chesterfield captain. I hold him in high regard for that moment. It’s a very positive moment that I had in my career.
“It’s fair to say that decision, you’ve got to fancy your chances then. Where we were, you never know, because they’re still a top side. Juninho was unbelievable, I remember that, but if that goes in, if we get that...
“Everybody remembers it going over the line, and it wasn’t given, but then there’s a foul on Andy Morris so he had two opportunities to give something. Then I could’ve scored two penalties. It was straight away.
“Morris goes to head it in and Festa goes over his back. He’s the wrong side, jumps over the top of him and fouls him. He didn’t give either. It was surreal. Then he gave a penalty against me that was outside the box. He had a good day. I’ve let it go!”