The magic of the Cup. Does it still exist? I think so. I hope so.
The Cup of course can only be the oldest in the game, the FA Cup. The magic? If it is around it will be attendant upon tonight’s draw - live on BBC Two - for the third round, that historic, charmed confluence of big fish and minnows. To use the accepted FA Cup terminology.
"Holders Manchester City and record 13-time winners Arsenal are involved as Premier League and Championship clubs enter at this stage," BBC Sport reports.
"There are five non-league clubs in the draw, including National League AFC Fylde who beat Kingstonian on Saturday.
"Tony Adams and Micah Richards will conduct the draw from Etihad Stadium, Manchester City's home ground."
Manchester City. Red and black vertical stripes. David Nish and Leicester City doing everything to stop them in the 1969 Final - other than at the one moment when Neil Young, leaning back, rifled the winner home…
Arsenal. Charlie George, flat on his back, in change-strip yellow, waiting calmly to be raised by ecstatic team-mates after scoring the extra-time winner against a leaden-footed Liverpool to secure the League and Cup double in 1971…
For any football follower, the words "FA Cup" are an access to huge swathes of vivid, sometimes random, memories. This is the ground in which the competition still thrives.
I was walking through Shrewsbury the other day. What did I know about this beautiful town? I knew that, before Shrewsbury Town moved from their old ground of Gay Meadow, alongside the River Severn, to their current haven of the New Meadow, they used to employ an old chap in a coracle to retrieve stray footballs from the water.
I learned this while visiting the town in January 2003 to do a preview on the club’s imminent FA Cup fourth round tie against Chelsea - a heady meeting earned though an unlikely third-round win victory over Everton.
Shrewsbury, managed by ex-Everton centre half Kevin Ratcliffe, were on the crest of a very temporary wave - by the end of the season he was sacked and the club were sunk, out of the Football League…
For the five non-League clubs whose names will be in the draw tonight the excitement of the FA Cup is at its most intense. All is to play for. It could be Manchester City or Arsenal away.
Happily, the tendency towards conducting FA Cup draws almost immediately after teams have left the pitch has been stemmed, and there is now a gap in which to dream.
I recall how that tendency diminished what should have been a heady day or so for non-League Boreham Wood after they had defeated far lesser non-League opponents Thatcham Town 5-0 in the fourth qualifying round of the 1996-1997 FA Cup.
Boreham Wood had recently improved their ground in anticipation of possible further promotion to the top non-League tier - then called the Vauxhall Conference. But with the best will in the world, average crowds of around 300 were not generating sufficient funds to sustain progression.
Having reached the FA Cup first round proper for only the third time in their history, the Hertfordshire club's players and supporters had just over 20 minutes to dream of a pairing with League opponents before the televised draw ended any speculation.
The consensus among the fans packed into the smoky back-room bar was that a home tie with Millwall, Orient or Barnet would be favourite.
As the dead tones of the then Football Association chief executive, Graham Kelly, confirmed a home draw for Boreham Wood, a gathering roar emerged from the smokers and drinkers. We're in there! We're on telly! Bring on the big boys!
The roar diminished to a low groan at the pairing with Rushden & Diamonds, of the Conference.
"Very disappointing," said supporter Clive Drinkall, who had witnessed Boreham Wood's previous Cup runs in 1973-1974 and 1977-1978.
Terry Robbins, who had scored a hat-trick that afternoon, was more inclined to optimism. "It would have been nice to get a League club," he said. "But now we have got a good chance of getting through to the second round.."
As things turned out, they did reach the second round after a replay, winning 3-2 away after a 1-1 home draw. Their second round opponents were Luton Town, who were then in the Football League Second Division, and the non-Leaguers lost 2-1 away, falling one round short of the world of Manchester City and Arsenal…
Robbins, who was working at the time for merchant bankers Lazard Brothers as a cash administrator, had previously reached the FA Cup third round with another non-League side, Welling United, who had lost 1-0 with honour to the relatively mighty and historically resonant opposition of Blackburn Rovers.
"It's an old cliche," he said. "But before the game I was saying to the lads that there is a great feeling about the FA Cup because there is no other competition in the world like it. When we were having our runs at Welling the crowds doubled there and we had three or four very good years at the club."
That is still the realistic deal, and the hope, for Fylde Athletic, Boston United, Eastleigh, Hartlepool United and Solihull Moors. Fingers crossed…