The FA Cup is the world’s oldest club competition. Steeped in history, we’ve all heard stories from the past to set our pulses racing. Members of my family would compare the sheer volume of football on television these days with the fact that, for many years, the only games to be televised were the ones that decided who lifted the Cup at Wembley. One of those, in 1975, when Fulham were beaten by West Ham, was indirectly the reason I’m a Fulham fan. My father wasn’t much of a football follower – hailing from Australia – but my mum worked in a shop in Hammersmith and had become caught up in Cup final fever. They watched the game together, having not long started going out, and then began visiting Craven Cottage the following season.

There is a link between that year and this one. Fulham’s remarkable run to the final as a second division side began at Hull City, which is where Marco Silva will return tomorrow in a break from the Whites’ wonderful league campaign. The Cup is clearly diminished in stature since its heyday – a decline that started with Manchester United, then the treble winners, being allowed to skip the competition to play in the Club World Cup. The ‘big’ sides now regularly field weakened teams, a trend which has trickled down to clubs fighting for promotion or relegation, and the crowds have dwindled as the magic of the Cup has been replaced by a desire to either get in the top four, avoid relegation or earn promotion. None of these things should be mutually exclusive, however, given the number of players a modern manager has to pick from.

FA Cup third round day will always be special to me. I used to marvel as a child at the simplicity of a knockout competition that pitted major teams against minnows through a simple draw – and the record books are packed full of matches were the smaller sides packed a real punch. Predicting those giantkillings was never straight forward and the stories that the Cup delivers every year, like part-time players scoring a sensational winner or community clubs getting a moment in the sun, are superb. Third round day is like another Christmas for me, with so many tantalising victories that saw the depth of the game in this country.

Fulham haven’t exactly been up for the Cup in the recent yo-yo years, although it was lovely to see Jay Stansfield make his senior debut for the club as the Whites beat Aston Villa with a couple of wondergoals a few years ago. There was the ignominy of defeat by Oldham in the Ranieri era, which had echoes of when Leyton Orient beat Chris Coleman’s side at Craven Cottage in 2006. We should remember, of course, that merely being at this stage is an achievement: now Fulham qualify automatically by virtue of their league position, but they used to have to win through three rounds to join the big boys. Sometimes they did, but more often than not failure was glorious in itself: it isn’t particularly pleasant to recall the humbling at the hands of Hayes in 1991. Kevin Keegan’s Cup run in 1998/99, which brought him to the attention of the Football Association, saw the Whites survive a real scare against Leigh RMI in the first round before they did some shocking of their own: knocking out Southampton and Villa on their way to a fifth round tie at Manchester United. I still curse John Salako for that costly miss at Old Trafford.

Fulham haven’t had a Cup run of any real magnitude since Roy Hodgson’s side reached the quarter finals in 2010, although that season is more memorable for those Europa League exploits. With the Whites well above the relegation zone after three consecutive victories after Christmas, there is scope for Silva to select a stronger squad than he might have been planning to. The team should certainly include some of the club’s promising youngsters: it would be nice to see how Luke Harris gets on against Championship opposition over ninety minutes and a few of Steve Wigley’s promising under-21s deserve a taste of senior football, such as skipper Ollie O’Neill for instance, but you could still field a side packed with experience by including the likes of Rodak, Duffy, Adarabioyo, Tom Cairney – on his return to Humberside – and maybe even Aleksandar Mitrovic, given that the Serbian is banned for the SW6 derby next Thursday. Carlos Vinicius deserves the game time, especially after how effective he was in the November friendly against West Ham, but the prospect is tantalising.

Of course, the premise of this entire article – that Fulham might be better equipped for a Cup run than in many years – might be rendered utterly academic should Liam Rosenior’s Hull spring a surprise or the Whites be handed a trip to the Etihad Stadium, as seems to be the default draw over the last few seasons. In any case, I’m up for the Cup on Saturday – even if the dream of another visit to Wembley proves painfully fleeting.