Hull City v Leyton Orient: Is FA Cup a romantic date or just a distraction for Steve Bruce's men?
THAT familiar sense of deflation was back to fill the KC Stadium on January 28 of last year. A second-half winner from Matt Tubbs had fired League Two Crawley Town to an unlikely victory and left Hull City to reflect on another lamentable afternoon in the FA Cup.
Another year, another disappointment.
Aside from a bold run to the quarter-finals in 2009, a campaign eventually ended amid a storm of controversy in defeat at Arsenal, the Tigers can regale a long tale of woe in the FA Cup.
A third round date at home to Leyton Orient offers fresh hope for 2013 under Steve Bruce, but bitter experience ensures few supporters will see today's fixture as the first step on a romantic journey.
A full head colour or 1/2 head highlights, luxury Redken treatment, cut & blowdry for JUST £40 (Save £25) or upgrade to a full head of highlights for JUST £50 (Save £35). Add a spray tan for JUST £10.
Terms: New customers only (not visited salon since 25/02/2013). Monday - Thursday only. Savings based on directors rates.
Contact: 01482 423178
Valid until: Wednesday, July 31 2013
Over the past two decades, City and the FA Cup have gone together like oil and water.
Just twice (in 2009 and 2012) have they ventured beyond the third round in the last 23 years, while in five of the last seven seasons the Tigers' participation has fallen at their very first hurdle. Disappointment is almost to be expected when January rolls around.
Not for the first time, the FA Cup will again be something of a distraction to City this season.
On the back of a climb into the Championship's automatic promotion places over the last fortnight, hopes of reaching the Premier League are soaring under Bruce. Promotion, quite simply, is on.
The value of a return to the top-flight, conservatively estimated to be worth at least £100m following a new TV rights deal, pushes the FA Cup uncomfortably into the shadows of Bruce's mind.
Even if the Tigers were to upset all the odds and lift the oldest cup competition in the world in May, the most they could hope to earn would be £5m in prize money, gate revenue and TV income. Memories alone do not pay the bills.
Victory over Leyton Orient today would net City £67,500. Progress to the fifth round would bring a further £90,000. Such sums are barely big enough to leave a scratch on an annual wage bill believed to be close to £20m at the KC Stadium.
The financial disparity leaves the FA Cup struggling to halt its plummeting status and, much like his predecessors, Bruce will treat the famous competition with something close to apathy.
A place in the fourth round will be demanded against a side in the bottom half of League One, but the City boss has already served notice that a raft of changes will be guaranteed.
Fringe players such as Andy Dawson, Paul McKenna, Tom Cairney and Nick Proschwitz will all be hoping for a chance to impress against the O's as City adopt an age-old approach to the FA Cup.
Twelve months ago Nick Barmby made seven changes for the third round victory over Ipswich Town. Three weeks later, six more changes brought about the embarrassing loss to Crawley.
Bruce will be happy enough to replicate the gamble. A glut of options will mean whichever team is fielded against Leyton Orient should be good enough to progress. Even if another dreaded upset comes, it would soon be forgotten if promotion followed.
Just ask Phil Brown. He was chastised for fielding an under-strength side for the third round defeat at Plymouth in January 2008 but lauded as the region's king when triumphant at Wembley the following May.
It is a sorry state of affairs for a competition that evokes so many happy memories for the elder generations.
The 2-2 draw at Chelsea in the quarter-finals of 1965-66, when Ken Wagstaff's brace earned a shock replay, is a story that still resonates 47 years on. So too the brave defeat at Stoke City in 1970-71.
The last golden moment, when the FA Cup really etched a chapter of its own in City history, perhaps came in 1989.
Welcoming Liverpool, the great champions of England, to Boothferry Park in front of over 20,000, City led 2-1 at half-time courtesy of goals from Billy Whitehust and Keith Edwards. The fact City went on to lose 3-2 is almost incidental.
The 2009 run to the quarter-finals has been the only year since to truly set the pulse racing.
Victories over Newcastle, Millwall and Sheffield United led the Tigers to the Emirates Stadium, where Nick Barmby's opener was eventually cancelled out by a late and controversial Arsenal fightback.
Allegations levelled against Cesc Fabregas for spitting at Phil Brown's assistant Brian Horton eventually soured the occasion, but City's season goal was ultimately met when survival was dramatically sealed on the final day of the season. That was all that ever really mattered.
And all that really matters this season is the Championship.
The FA Cup, just as the Capital One Cup was in August, has been reduced to the role of support act.
And providing City can hit the right notes in the promotion campaign, few will offer any lasting grumbles if another cup run fails to deliver a rare highlight this year.