Appearances can be very deceptive – just ask any follower of Preston North End.
When PNE were pulled out of the hat with Bournemouth in the third round draw for the League Cup – the EFL Cup in new money – the collective groan could be heard from Fulwood to Leyland.
A 540-mile round trip on a Tuesday night is enough to test any supporter’s pocket, time and loyalty.
In the end, it all turned out rather well and was enjoyable to say the least.
The football was more than decent, the victory even better and a striker being written off just days earlier, netted a hat-trick.
Extra-time meant a slightly later night but when a return to Preston was going to be in the wee small hours anyway, what was half-an-hour extra between friends?
If I owned a hat, I would take it off and doff it in the direction of the 293 North End fans who were at Dean Court.
A day off work, probably two days, to see a shadow squad do the business four-and-a-half hours away.
The 293 did not just sit there making up the numbers, their vocal backing for the team was constant over 120 minutes.
‘Feed the Mak and he will score’ – a song getting its first airing – rang out of the away section positioned down one side of the ground.
The subject of the song, Simon Makienok, even got a bare-chested hug from one shirtless fan when he ran over to celebrate the completion of his treble.
North End’s victory in Dorset was one of two shocks in the third round – Norwich’s win at Everton the other.
I would argue that PNE’s result was a bit more of a shock, bearing in mind Norwich were in the top flight last season and are contenders to make a quick return.
That said, followers of the Canaries will point to the lofty Premier League status of Everton to counter that argument.
Both were excellent results and thank goodness the draw for the fourth round did not pitch the winners together.
Norwich away on a Tuesday night, no thanks – Preston had their fair share of that particular draw in the 1980s.
It is Newcastle away next, the visit to Tyneside on October 25 coming just four days before the sides meet at Deepdale in the Championship.
Will the cup tie be the phoney war before hostilities in the league?
I presume the Preston team will change somewhat between the two games, likewise that of the Magpies.
By a quirk of fate, Newcastle knocked Wolves out on Tuesday night to set up their meeting with PNE – just a few days after losing to the Midlands club in the league.
Progress in the League Cup by Preston would be nice to see, the fourth round being the furthest they have been.
The last time they got this far was in 2002, a run brought to a shattering halt by Aston Villa who beat them 5-0.
It should be a decent sized crowd which North End will play in front of at St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s win over Wolves in the week attracted a 37,000 attendance.
With ticket prices pegged back to £10 for adults and £3 for concessions, similar can be expected next month.
PNE’s share of the gate, even at the reduced prices, should put a few quid into the club’s coffers.
Meanwhile, a commonsense decision from Football League clubs on Thursday, saw the idea of Premier League B teams and ‘non-English’ clubs being part of a proposed fifth division rejected.
The league’s 72 clubs had been asked to consider the idea as part of the proposed ‘Whole Game Solution’.
Having Premier League B teams playing in the Football League is an idea which leaves many supporters cold and thankfully the clubs have taken such a view on board.
Just have a look at how poor attendances have been in the ELF Trophy for games involving B teams.
Their use in other countries is more common, in Spain for example.
But there is simply no need for them in England – the league system has the depth which a lot of other countries don’t.
It seems the winter break idea was not universally popular either, with League One and Two clubs indicating they would like to play during any break which might be introduced higher up.
Should a winter break be introduced in the Premier League and Championship, do it during January.
Don’t lose the Christmas and New Year programme of games, those being an important tradition, not to mention being well supported.