Is it just me, or are we hurtling towards Christmas at an alarming rate? Maybe it's my age, but time seems to pass quicker nowadays. On the eve of my second trip to Priory Lane, home of Eastbourne Borough, I can't quite believe that this season's FA Cup will, after tomorrow's game, be half complete. Or half remaining, depending on your view.
It feels like only yesterday that I went to the Extra Preliminary Round game between Chertsey Town and Wick, back in August. The kids were still off school, the days were long and some of the Chertsey players were still on the beach.
From the Extra Preliminary Round in August to the Final in May, there are a total of fourteen rounds. The seventh round will be played out this weekend. The games have come relatively thick and fast since August, one every two weeks (not counting replays). From now on though they start to spread out; three weeks between the First and Second Round Proper, a month between the Second and Third, and so on.
The rather sad thing for me is that many will see this weekend as the start of the FA Cup. Particularly the big media companies. The BBC and Sky TV now get in on the act. Sky TV will broadcast the Hereford United v Leeds United game tonight and the BBC will be showing Torquay United v Yeovil Town on Sunday. There will also be an FA Cup Match of the Day on Saturday evening. The draw for the First Round Proper was the first draw in this season's competition to attract live television coverage. All future round draws will be live. And if you read any of the mainstream newspapers this is when the FA Cup coverage really starts. You would be excused for believing that the previous six rounds didn't exist. The spotlight has just arrived.
But then this is not such a bad thing. The character of the competition has up to this stage has been enhanced somewhat by the relative anonymity. The small clubs, the tiny grounds, the local support, the sub-one hundred gates. Out of the eyes of mainstream media the FA Cup still sparkles and for me that is where it glitters brightest. And it is more intimate. As an individual the early rounds allow you to get up close and personal. The only way to get any closer is to be playing.
But now here come the TV cameras, the bigger crowds, the greater recognition. The First Round Proper - even the title gives something away. And to be honest, my previous FA Cup viewing had only ever been from this stage of the competition. But this season it has been very different for me. I have learnt so much since August and I'll be the first to admit it has been a real eye-opener. There is still so much more the FA Cup will offer up this season and there is plenty to look forward to, but my involvement from the earliest knockings has seen my love affair with the FA Cup blossom.
The viewing gallery has suddenly got bigger. And my glass is, without doubt, only half full. It must be your round...