Romance of the cup is well and truly alive and kicking!
PUBLISHED: 08:07 05 August 2017
It's is perhaps fitting that Great Yarmouth Town's opening match of the new season should be in the FA Cup.
Their ground – The Wellesley – is home to a magnificent 125-year-old stand, the oldest continously used stand in the world – where the Bloaters’ loyal followers will watch their team compete in the world’s oldest knockout competition.
The opposition are Diss Town, FA Vase winners in 1994 but coming off a summer of discontent. The Tangerines dream is survival against a team who play a division higher – Thurlow Nunn Premier v First Division.
It has all the romance, background, competitive edge and incentive you could wish for. And there’s a few quid in it too.
Yarmouth joint boss Adam Mason isn’t one to count his chickens, but every penny is a prisoner in non league football and it helps to work out where the cash might come in: the winners will face Basildon at home in the next round. Add that to a favourable draw in the FA Vase, where there is a home tie for Yarmouth followed – if they win – by another Wellesley game. The bean counters have worked out that success in those games would be worth more than £5,000.
But as Mason points out: Diss will have done their sums as well.
For 90 minutes this afternoon, though, it’s about the prestige of the FA Cup, not the financial reward: that can wait. Players from the two squads won’t be concerned with figures – they will be able to boast that their footballing CV carries a line saying they played in a competition which has been graced by some of the world’s best players.
Despite the treatment of it by some more illustrious clubs, the competition still means an awful lot at local level.
“It is special, no doubt,” says Mason. “As a player you always get that extra buzz for playing in the FA Cup. I know I always used to and as a manager it is no different.
“It adds some ammunition to our motivation as well, especially with some of the young lads. You talk to them about the opportunity to play in the FA Cup and you can see it is certainly a piece of easy motivation to say, ‘do you want to play in the FA Cup?’.
“I think in general everyone understands the romance of the FA Cup and the history behind it and the opportunity we have to actually play in the competition, whatever round that may be.
“I remember years ago when I played for Yarmouth the BBC chose to follow the winning team all the way through to Wembley and the first game they chose was us against Southall and we had Football Focus down for the day and they made quite a fuss of us. That made me realise that even at that stage there is that much focus on this big competition starting.”
This afternoon’s tie may lack the presence of Auntie Beeb, but its status remains intact.
“This game has got everything you would expect for a great cup tie,” Mason added. “It is exciting because, despite the fact they are a league below us, it is as much motivation for them as it is for us. They will go into it feeling like they have nothing to lose. There is a massive prize for a grassroots football side as well. Because of the passion that goes into these games that acts as a bit of a leveller and for me that is not a bad thing. We have not had the best of pre-seasons so coming into a competitive fixture where we have to roll our sleeves up and actually have a go may not be a bad thing for us.
“All the incentives are clear and obvious, but they are the same incentives that we have got and we are not taking them lightly by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Bloaters may have missed out on cup glory in recent years, but there is some history: they reached the second round proper in 1953 after a famous first-round victory over Crystal Palace – although Barrow ended the dream in the following round.
For Mason and fellow joint boss Martyn Sinclair this is the start of their third season in charge at The Wellesley: the first ended with promotion from the First Division, the second saw a fine fifth-placed finfish in the Premier Division.
So, right now, what would Adam Mason prefer, an FA Cup run or good league finish?
“Offered now I would take a healthy league finish. Having said that we haven’t done much in cup competitions, particularly the FA Cup, in the last few seasons so myself and Sinny have said that given the fact we have seen the draws and we have seen the draws for the next rounds, realistically not only as far as progress is concerned we have looked at it and we could be picking up five or six grand just on the draws we are aware of.
“And home advantage means a lot, especially at The Wellesley – it is a huge pitch and we fancy ourselves at home ... it’s exciting.”