The 2022-23 season sees the 151st edition of the FA Cup take place, and you may not be aware that the world’s most famous domestic cup competition was created in the original offices of The Sportsman.
With a deep connection to the FA Cup, this year we have decided to follow the famous trophy from the extra preliminary round all the way to the final at Wembley Stadium. Starting with a visit to the Shawe View Stadium, home of Trafford FC, who take on AFC Liverpool on Saturday, we will follow the victorious team through the tournament ending up underneath the famous arch.
The magic of the cup is never lost on non-league clubs. With this level of football being semi-professional, all of the people involved at Trafford are volunteers and have day-to-day jobs alongside their work at the club.
“I work in education, a private education company,” says manager Danny Caldecott. “We deliver courses to help unemployed people to upskill and get them back into work.”
The Manchester-based side were founded in 1990 and are a step above the visitors in the football pyramid but with the historical rivalry between the two cities, there is a lot of excitement surrounding this match.
Caldecott is looking forward to the game, knowing that there are North West bragging rights on the line as well as a place in the preliminary round.
“Playing AFC Liverpool is going to be a massive game obviously,” says Caldecott.
“It’s a Liverpool side, born and bred and we went there last night and we watched on from the terraces. The fans were even talking about the game already. And they were saying things like we can’t wait to go and ‘do the Mancs’ on Saturday and all the rest of that – all in good jest don’t get me wrong. But yeah it’s going to be a big game.”
Speaking about how much of an opportunity the competition is for his players, Caldecott recalls one of his fondest FA Cup memories, when he faced Barnet with Stalybridge Celtics.
“When I was at Stalybridge, we did reasonably well. I was a player there at the time. We went down to Underhill and we drew 2-2 so we took them to a replay. And this was in the first round proper. We took them back to our place and ended up getting beat 2-1 on the night. I remember Giuliano Grazioli scoring two on the night to knock us out.
“The FA Cup is the biggest competition in terms of our level because this is the only opportunity really where we can play against established professional teams in terms of higher up the pyramid.
“Similar to what Marine did last year, you know, get the glamor tie of Tottenham coming to their home ground which is what every ambitious, semi-professional manager and player dreams of.”
Marine were in the same division as Trafford when they got their fairytale tie against Spurs in 2020-21 and while the games are a dream come true for players, staff and fans, the revenue they generate for these clubs is massive.
Caldecott says: “I can’t even begin to imagine the sort of revenue that was brought into that club [Marine] and that community. And the FA Cup gives you that platform and if you’re lucky enough and you work hard and you get decent draws, then you’ve got an opportunity to do that.”
If Trafford were to progress to the next round on Saturday, they will pocket £1,125. And while that figure is considered nothing to Football League clubs, that money can have such an impact at clubs like Trafford and it is why the FA Cup is still treasured by them.
Caldecott says: “It is an amazing competition because you get to experience things like that and I think it brings the best out of people at times, whether it be the club, the players, the managers. It’s just a really good occasion for everybody to enjoy football.”
He adds: “For an eighth tier team to potentially reach the third round of the FA Cup and play a team like Liverpool and emulate what Marine did in previous seasons would be absolutely incredible. And I don’t think people understand what it’s like to be a non-league footballer, a non-league manager. You give your heart and soul while still doing the 9 to 5, still having a family, still dealing with everything else that comes at life.
Trafford FC secretary, Graham Foxall
“I think that the biggest thing for me would be the advert that it gives to people and to showcase what getting involved and being involved in an only non-league club is all about. It’s very much the supporters’ club. Fans come there, you get to mix with the players and the manager afterwards. I always go into the bar after every single game, win, lose or draw and if anybody has any questions for me I’ll answer them openly. And I think that’s what they love about being around non-league football.”
When asked about his dream FA Cup tie, Caldecott named a club that is quite controversial for this neck of the woods.
“My dream fixture would be Liverpool. I’m pretty sure that everyone at the club would say Manchester United, but mine would be Liverpool. To test your wits against somebody like Jurgen Klopp would be absolutely unbelievable and just the whole occasion of a Liverpool coming here would be surreal. It’s the team that I follow and I couldn’t honestly think of anything greater within football for us at this kind of level, to be honest with you.”
The pressure is certainly on Trafford as they are a step above their opponents but they have also never exited the FA Cup at this stage in their history. Should they progress to the next round, they will face Runcorn Linnets at home.