by Stuart Moriarty-Patten

Like the first sign of spring after the winter of close season, there’s a reminder that a new season is almost upon us with the start of this season’s FA Cup competition.  Far removed from the glamour and glitz and media attention of last season’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool, this season’s FA Cup, the 140th year of the competition, kicks off this Friday 10 August, when Ascot United take on Sandhurst Town, in the Extra Preliminary Round.

This will be Ascot’s second season entering into the FA cup and they will be looking to win their first ever game in the competition.  Last season they lost 2-1 to Wembley, in front of 1,149 fans, which wasn’t quite a full ground as it was 1 under their official capacity of 1150.    This was a game that earned the clubs a little fame as it was streamed live on Facebook.

Ascot were formed in 1965 and play their football in the auspicious surroundings of Ascot racecourse, home of the famous Gold Cup. They play in the Hellenic premier, an equivalent of a regional division 9 of the football pyramid, having won promotion to it for the first time in 2009 after two consecutive promotions took them from the Reading League.

Their opponents for the tie are Sandhurst Town.  Although local to each other it will be the first time the clubs have ever met. The 101 year old Sandhurst club, known as the Fizzers due possibly to their fans chanting “fizz fizz bang” when a goal is scored, have been competing in the FA Cup since 1998.  Their best run came in 2004 when they reached the second round qualifying after wins over Southwick and Bracknell, before losing 2-0 to Leatherhead, a team who have themselves tasted cup glory in the 1970s when they reached the 4th round proper.  Sandhurst also play their league football in a division 9 equivalent league, the Combined Counties Premiership.

The winner of the tie will be away to Bishop’s Cleeve of Southern League DIvision One in the next round.  To put it all into perspective of how far removed the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup are from the finals, the winning club will get £1000 as prize money from the FA, which is approximately what last year’s scorer for Liverpool, Andy Carroll, earns every couple of hours.  This though is what makes the FA Cup such a glorious competition, the fact that every butcher, baker and postman who plays football on the side, can dream of appearing on the same pitch as the game’s superstars.