A side celebrating like it’s 1966, “awkward” reunions and the healing power of the FA Cup all feature in the fourth and final qualifying round on Saturday.
With only two of the 368 teams that kicked off the 2016 instalment of the competition in the extra preliminary round in August still standing six games later, BBC Sport brings you a selection of stories from the oldest cup competition in the world.
‘We are the legacy of 1966’
When Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy at Wembley in 1966, Hereford teenager Andrew Morris, like the rest of the nation, celebrated World Cup glory.
But simply celebrating was not enough for Morris. Instead, he and his friends strived to emulate their football heroes by founding their own club.
And so Westfields FC was born, a squad that quickly adopted the winning look of the day, and who are now celebrating their golden anniversary with their best run in the FA Cup.
“We bought West Ham coloured kit – we were in awe of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst,” said Morris, now 66 and chairman of Westfields.
“When England won in ’66, we all played football in the streets, young kids in awe of the win.
“I was a goalkeeper because I thought Gordon Banks was the best thing sliced bread – all the fields in Westfields had people playing football.”
While England’s victory 50 years ago looms large over a national team former captain Alan Shearer says are the “laughing stock of world football”, the success of Sir Alf Ramsey’s side continues to spur on the small club in the Midlands Football League.
Westfields started their season with an extra-preliminary-round victory in the FA Cup and have won every one of their 15 matches in all competitions since. They are the only side in the top nine tiers of English football with a 100% record.
They next face Leiston, who are looking to reach the first round proper for the first time in eight years.
“We are typical of the legacy of 1966 – we were inspired to go on and do as well as we could,” said Morris. “With it being our 50th year we wanted something special to happen, and believe you me it is happening every day.”
‘It is our FA Cup final’
Defender Andre Bennett is on an FA Cup run as good as his father’s – played five, won five.
The difference, however, is stark. Defender Gary Bennett reached the 1992 final with Sunderland, while Andre’s side Bishop Auckland need to beat Stockport to reach the first round proper.
“It’s remarkable how many games we have won and we haven’t even reached the first round yet,” said the 21-year-old former Middlesbrough man. “This is like the final for us, only there is more for us if we win this game.
“My dad is over for moon about our run. He is gutted he won’t make it to the game on Saturday as he is at Stoke covering Sunderland for BBC Newcastle, but he will be following it on Twitter.”
The Northern League Division One side might be the lowest-ranked side left in the competition, but they do have cup pedigree.
While it is 22 years since they last reached the first round proper, they went as far as round four in 1955.
Then there is their status as the most successful club in the now extinct FA Amateur Cup, reaching the final 18 times, winning the competition on 10 occasions and featuring at Wembley Stadium.
Manager Steve Riley hopes their latest cup exploits mark the start of a move back towards their glory days.
“The players now have the chance to write their own bit of history,” he said. “This club has a massive history of winning things, we are aware of the tradition, and the supporters are desperate to get back to those times.
“We want to use this as a stepping stone for the future.”
Easing the pain of a double relegation blow
After being relegated twice in three months from the same division, Stamford were in serious need of a pick-me-up.
And they’ve found it with an FA Cup visit by National League side Wrexham on Saturday.
The Daniels were initially relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League in April, only to then be handed a reprieve because Cinderford United declined promotion from the fourth tier of the non-league pyramid – the step Stamford were seemingly consigned to.
- FA Cup third qualifying round fixtures
- 2016-17 FA Cup qualifying results
The unlikely lifeline of being the best-placed side with the best points average across the relegated teams in the third level of non-league football was, however, rescinded on appeal in June.
“We were wounded there. We felt we were treated very badly and this is helping ease that,” Stamford chairman Bob Feetham told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
“We will enjoy this cup run. It has taken away a lot of the pain of losing some of the bigger gates that we would have had.
“When we heard the draw it was a massive relief to finally come home. To have the tie here and to be up against one of the big clubs in the competition and one with such history in the FA Cup is absolutely tremendous.”
A win-win no matter the result
Heard the one about the opposition chairman sinking money in to his rivals?
Eastleigh chairman Stewart Donald is preparing to face the Southern League Division Once Central side he sponsors after the Spitfires were drawn against North Leigh on Saturday.
“If there was one team I wanted it was North Leigh, as we have a lot of connections,” Donald, who played for the Oxfordshire side for 10 years and whose company Bridle Insurance now sponsor their kit, told BBC Radio Solent.
“Our offices are 500 yards from their pitch. I’d say we probably give them more than the market rate for sponsoring a team in the South West. It’s just something we like to do.”
Eastleigh were the last remaining non-league club in last year’s competition, forcing Bolton Wanderers to a third-round replay after more than 5,000 squeezed into the Silverlake Stadium for the initial tie.
While he is in the ultimate win-win situation with a foot planted in both camps, Donald wants to see Eastleigh go through. Not that he could begrudge an early upset.
“If they manage to beat us, I’m sure they will be on the television and it will be a big pay day for them,” he said. “Of course we want to win, but for me it will be a nice day to be involved in.”
An FA Cup tie that will be both “awkward” and “strange”.
Welcome to Chester versus Southport, and Jon McCarthy up against managerial mentor Steve Burr.
Former Birmingham City, York, Port Vale and Northern Ireland winger McCarthy was a player under Sandgrounders boss Burr for four years at Hucknall Town and Northwich Victoria, and later worked as his assistant manager for two and a half years at Chester.
And, last spring, he succeeded Burr at the National League club.
“It’s a strange situation and not one that I’m going to be cool about or anything,” McCarthy told BBC Radio Merseyside. “All I’ve ever done is play for him, work with him and always been on the same side as him.
“Maybe if he beats us, he’ll want to have a drink, but I probably won’t want to. And if we win he won’t want to have a drink.
“But next time we see each other in whatever social setting, I know how much Steve Burr has done for me and how much I’ve learned from him, so there will never be any animosity there.”
BBC Radio Merseyside’s Neil Turner, who covers both teams, said: “On current form, the rapidly emerging student, Jon McCarthy, is the firm favourite to dump his former mentor, Steve Burr, out of the competition.
“Burr, who experienced managerial success at Kidderminster Harriers and initially at Chester, has an enormous task to create stability with an underachieving squad at Southport, while McCarthy has quietly moulded a group of youngsters and journeymen non-league players into an impressive unit.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37552873