1) Swindon and City on level playing field

Swindon and Manchester City were regular combatants in the 1990s, meeting in the second tier and during Swindon’s one season in the Premier League, 1993-94. Friday’s visit to the County Ground will be a first meeting in 20 years. On 5 January 2002, former Swindon man Kevin Horlock scored the second in a 2-0 home win at Maine Road. The years since have seen the clubs move in radically different trajectories, and they now operate on different planets. Swindon arrested a slump with a 5-2 defeat of Northampton on New Year’s Day, and lie in the League Two play-off positions. The club have explained price hikes for this game “due to the historical financial issues that were inherited” from the previous ownership. City, clear at the top of the Premier League, have this week been strengthening their finances further by adding an Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company to their sponsorship portfolio. JB

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2) Terriers have history on their side

As the old maxim goes, Huddersfield always win the Cup when the year ends in 22, especially if they get to visit Turf Moor along the way. They played there twice en route to lifting the trophy for the first and only time in 1922, ousting Burnley at the start of their campaign before beating Notts County at Turf Moor in the semi-final. So we can be certain that, before Saturday’s tie at Burnley, Carlos Corberán will rev his charges up with tales of heroes such as Billy Smith, the scorer of their winner at Wembley back in the day and – by the by – the first player in English football to find the net directly from a corner. With both teams beset by Covid-related problems, and Huddersfield fighting for promotion from the Championship while Burnley battle against relegation from the Premier League, it is difficult to predict the lineups of each side, but it would not be a major shock if the visitors knocked out the Clarets. PD

3) Boreham Wood eye another upset

Boreham Wood have developed a taste for beating Football League opposition in recent years, having broken their duck by defeating Blackpool in the first round of the FA Cup in 2017-18. Last season they beat Southend on penalties in the first round of a run that ended with defeat to Millwall in the third. They have reached the stage this time without facing an EFL club, having seen off Barnet and Eastleigh, also winning a local derby with St Albans City to get this far. Wimbledon have found League One something of a struggle lately, not least due to Covid cancellations. A stern letter to authorities demanded the league “implement the strongest-possible measures to ensure that – where a club is able to fulfil a fixture – it does so”. Mark Robinson’s team looked rusty in losing to Oxford during their one Christmas assignment, but 1,200 Dons will be making the trip to the other side of the London conurbation. JB

Boreham Wood’s Adrian Clifton scores the fourth goal against St Albans in the second round.
Boreham Wood’s Adrian Clifton scores the fourth goal against St Albans in the second round. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

4) Kidderminster sniff Royals opportunity

The lowest-ranked team left in this year’s competition, Kidderminster Harriers sit fifth in the National League North and will fancy their chances of causing an upset against a Reading side more interested in Championship survival than any sort of Cup run. A capacity crowd of more than 5,000 will pack the intimate environs of Aggborough for the arrival of Veljko Paunovic’s second-tier strugglers and the Royals’ Serbian manager has said he will rest plenty of first-choice players for an encounter that precedes four league games in 12 days for his team. “We have to approach the game on Saturday in the best possible way and in our best interests,” he said, no doubt aware that what serves his best interests will also benefit those of his opposite number, Russell Penn. Having had their past three games postponed, Kidderminster’s players enjoyed a restful festive period, while the striker Ashley Hemmings will be confident of adding to goals he scored against Grimsby and Halifax in the first and second rounds. BG

5) Magpies fans still on post-Ashley high

That St James’ Park is a sell-out for the visit of Cambridge is not so much a tribute to Mark Bonner’s team, or perhaps a last chance to see the mercurial talents of Wes Hoolahan. Or even the chance for the Geordie nation to see Kieran Trippier unveiled on the hallowed turf. Instead, and despite the club’s lowly position in the Premier League, a fountain of optimism continues to gush on Tyneside. Whatever the providence of the Saudi Arabian cash that will fund their January recruitment drive, a not-Mike Ashley bounce continues among the club’s fans. A Covid-hit Christmas and no game since 27 December has also left the public wanting more, and there was much to get excited about in that night’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United. An FA Cup run would be a distraction for Eddie Howe but perhaps one that could help fuel the battle against relegation. JB

6) Seagulls can learn their priorities

With automatic promotion back to the Premier League the club’s overriding ambition, Valérien Ismaël made no apology for practically forfeiting West Brom’s place in the Carabao Cup this season by fielding a back-up side against Arsenal, who cavorted to a 6-0 win in August. We will never know for sure whether Ismaël would have opted for a similar approach to the FA Cup, since circumstances have made the choice for him: injuries, suspension and international duty mean the Baggies could be without up to 10 first-team players when they host Brighton on Saturday. Graham Potter best make sure he picks a team strong enough to progress because there is no justification for Brighton not taking a serious tilt at the Cup this season. Last year they slumped out in the fifth round after fielding a weakened side at Leicester, who, of course, went on to lift the trophy. Hopefully Potter has learned from that. PD

7) Revived Chesterfield’s deserved reward

The architects of one of the most mind-blowing FA Cup runs in living memory, when as a third-tier side they were robbed by poor officiating and the absence of goal-line technology in their 1997 semi-final against Middlesbrough, Chesterfield have an opportunity to recreate the magic of yore when they take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The European champions are second in the Premier League, while their visitors sit 92 places below them, banging on the door of the Football League. Unbeaten in 14 games under the management of the 38-year-old James Rowe, Chesterfield were actually the first visiting team in history to win a League game at Stamford Bridge, in 1905, and will be hoping history of a sort can repeat itself in the first encounter between the clubs in 72 years. Whatever the outcome, this glamour tie and the financial windfall that comes with it is a thoroughly deserved reward for those behind the Chesterfield FC Community Trust, who have performed such sterling work since securing the purchase of the club 17 months ago. BG

Chesterfield’s James Kellermann celebrates scoring against Salford in the second round.
Chesterfield’s James Kellermann celebrates scoring against Salford in the second round. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

8) The Glovers v the Cherries, marvellous!

Yeovil and Bournemouth share Alec Stock in common. The FA Cup made Stock’s name, from leading Southern League Yeovil to a famous defeat of first division Sunderland in 1949 and then taking second division Fulham to losing the final in 1975. Bournemouth was the final stop in a long managerial career for the man whose lugubrious, wistful tones inspired the Fast Show’s Ron Manager. Yeovil, back in non-league after a lengthy stay in the Football League ended in 2019, look to repeat the heroics of 1949 in toppling Bournemouth, who lead the Championship. Mid-table in the National League, it would be quite the achievement for Darren Sarll’s team, though they may be aided by a Covid outbreak that led to the postponement of Bournemouth’s match with Peterborough on Monday. Should the game go ahead, Scott Parker is likely to have his selection limited for the club’s first ever FA Cup visit to Yeovil. JB

9) Harrogate reach milestone

Harrogate Town first entered the FA Cup in 1919 but this will be their first appearance in the third round, marking another milestone in the rise of a club enjoying an impressive second season in the Football League despite a recent dip in results. The decision to turn full-time four years ago has borne sweet fruit for the club, and Simon Weaver, who is in his 13th year in charge, can now claim to be the longest-serving league manager. Weaver has already led the team to Wembley glory – they won the 2020 FA Trophy – and will be aiming to build on good wins in the previous rounds over Wrexham and Portsmouth when they travel to Luton, another enchanting first. The returns of the defenders Rory McArdle and Will Smith from injuries could boost their chances of upsetting the Championship side. PD

10) Opportunity for United and Villa

The FA Cup ought to be a priority for both Manchester United and Aston Villa. In Scotland with Rangers, Steven Gerrard concentrated on winning the league. Villa are a club of considerable ambition and with the top four beyond reach and the relegation battle not too much of a concern, a run to Wembley can be considered. What of United? Roy Keane, in a late-2021 pundit-off with Jamie Carragher, suggested that Cristiano Ronaldo had been signed to win “the cups”. United are staring down five years without a trophy, the longest drought since winning this competition in 1983 followed 1977’s FA Cup win. Behind the scenes, and on the back pages, there are suggestions United’s players are struggling with Ralf Rangnick’s lack of celebrity, as well as his 4-2-2-2 formation. There is already a whiff of Roy Hodgson’s ill-suited regime at Liverpool about the German’s appointment. JB