- FA Cup First Round
In the draw but hungry for more
The first round proper of the FA Cup gets underway this weekend, with a number of clubs from the lower reaches of English football's pyramid hoping that this will be the year they make an impact on the competition on a national scale.
The first round sees a number of League One and Two clubs go from being the hunters to the hunted in the world's oldest competition, as minnows (even by comparison to those sides they are facing) look to pull off a giant killing.
Ahead of the various first round ties this weekend, ESPN takes a brief look at some of the smallest clubs left in the competition:
v. Aldershot (a)
Ground: Vale Farm (ground-share with Wembley FC, 3,000 capacity)
Quick history: Currently in the Isthmian League Premier Division (a league they have frequented for over a decade), Hendon were founded as Christ Church Hampstead in 1908 and underwent a number of name changes over the next 30 years, but have existed in their current guise since 1946. A lower league stalwart, the Greens' most famous FA Cup run came in 1974, when Rod Haider scored at St James' Park to clinch a 1-1 third round draw against the mighty Newcastle United.
Famous former players: The cult hero Haider excepted, Iain Dowie remains the club's most notable former player, eventually being sold for a club record fee of £30,000 to Luton in 1988 - although Bulgaria's World Cup 1994 star Bontcho Guentchev played for the club late in his career. Cricket legend Denis Compton (along with brother Leslie) was also briefly on the club's books as a youngster, before going on to make his name at Arsenal (and Lord's).
Current manager: Gary McCann currently holds the reins at the club, overseeing a stuttering start to the league campaign that has the side in the bottom three after eight games. The club's former goalkeeper, McCann was between the sticks for Hendon's second ever win over league opposition - as they beat Leyton Orient 1-0 in a replay at Claremont Road.
Current key players: Ryan Wharton is a virtual ever-present in defence for Hendon this season, while attacking midfielder Dean Cracknell has the faith of McCann to create chances and chip in with the odd goal. Youth product Greg Ngoyi has established himself as a key goalscoring threat since returning to the club - with Woking loanee Jack Mazzone proving an able foil this season.
v. MK Dons (h) - LIVE ON ESPN
Ground: City Ground (2,722 capacity)
Quick history: The Lilywhites began life as Cambridge Town, as the famous university outpost had not yet been granted city status. When it was granted, in 1951, it sparked a race between Cambridge and local rivals Abbey United to register the name with the FA. Cambridge got their application in first, leading them to become Cambridge City as their rivals were forced to settle for Cambridge United. On the pitch, the club's high point came with a Southern League victory in 1963, while they reached the second round of the FA Cup in 2004 - beating Leigh RMI 1-0 in front of 930 spectators at their Milton Lane home before succumbing to MK Dons - Friday's opponents - by the same scoreline at the same venue, except this time with 2,000 watching on.
Famous former players: Neil Harris made his name at Cambridge at the end of the 1990s, earning himself a £30,000 move to Millwall, where he would become a club idol. In more recent times, Roy Essandoh kindly added Cambridge to his list of non-league stops as he slid down the pyramid from his Wycombe high point.
Current manager: Another to spend at least part of his playing career at the club he now manages, Gary Roberts is approaching a full decade in charge of Cambridge. Under his auspices, his side have not finished outside the top six in their last four campaigns - finishing fourth three times.
Current key players: Versatile forward, and (perhaps more pertinently) former Manchester United trainee, Mitchell Bryant is a constant threat for the side, but it is striker Craig Hammond who tends to grab the headlines - Hammond already has 18 goals to his credit this season, eight of them in FA Cup preliminary ties.
v. Accrington Stanley (h)
Ground: Kellamergh Park (1,950 capacity)
Quick history: The result of a merger between the remains of Wesham FC and Kirkham Town in the 1980s, the club began life as Kirkham and Wesham FC before changing their name to AFC Fylde in time for the 2008-09 campaign. The Coasters have gone from strength to strength since the turn of the millennium, winning the West Lancashire League Premier Division four times in a row between 2003 and 2007 (and seven times in total). The club also claimed the FA Vase in 2008 as it joined the North West Counties League - subsequently stating an aim to reach the Football League by 2022.
Famous former players: AFC Fylde have hardly had long to develop a list of famous alumni, although Matt Walwyn - the son of a former Blackpool player - will forever have a place in the hearts of the club's faithful for his 11-minute cameo in the FA Vase final of 2008, as he scored twice to give Fylde a come-from-behind victory in the competition.
Current manager: Dave Challinor currently helms the squad at Fylde, and will celebrate a year in the job with the visit of Accrington on Saturday. The 37-year-old enjoyed a long career in the Football League as a player, appearing in over 140 games for both Tranmere and Bury before hanging up his boots.
Current key players: Adam Farrell has shown some form in recent weeks, the burly forward scoring the goal against Nantwich Town that got Fylde to the first round of the cup. At the back, however, is where the fans' hero resides - Glen Steel living up to his name as a imposing presence in the heart of the Fylde defence.
v. Crawley Town (h)
Ground: Imber Court (3,000 capacity)
Quick history: This weekend marks the fourth time the club has reached the first round proper of the FA Cup, having lost out on all three of the previous occasions.
Famous former players: Former Fulham player Rob Haworth had a couple of spells, as did William Amor - who played over 60 games for Reading and represented Great Britain at the 1948 Olympic Games. St Lucia's Rene Regis gained international honours while playing for the Met - while John Cottam played for and managed the club, before sealing a big-money move to Chelsea (as the club's compliance officer).
Current manager: A former player for the Met, Jim Cooper is another manager approaching a decade at the helm. A few playoff heartbreaks apart, Cooper can count on his CV a number of successes - including a Ryman League Division One South Championship title and victory in the 2011 London Senior Cup.
Current key players: Staforde Parker is the club's key goalscoring threat, while they have a player with international caps in their ranks in Guyana defender Chris Bourne. Crawley may well prove a particularly stern test for goalkeeper Jamie Butler - who has established himself as the club's No. 1 despite being barely out of his teens.
v. Coventry City (a)
Ground: Hitchin Road (2,920 capacity)
Quick history: In existence for well over 100 years, the Blues spent the early part of their existence loyal to amateur, regional football but - after joining what would become the South Midlands League - in the 1920s went on to a number of achievements. In recent years, however, things have really kicked on - the club claimed the FA Vase in memorable circumstances in 2005, while their Southern League Division One Central title was notable for the obstacles they had to overcome - not least the imposition of a nine-point deduction for unpaid player fines that left them needing to beat title rivals Hitchin Town on the final day of the season to belatedly secure a trophy they thought they had won weeks earlier.
Famous former players: 'Famous' might be overstating it somewhat, but Arlesey proved willing stepping stones for both Dave Kitson and Craig Mackail-Smith as the forwards rose through the footballing pyramid to reach the upper echelons.
Current manager: Zema Abbey is the current player/manager at Arlesey, the club he began his career at before heading up the Football League - at one point earning a £350,000 move to Norwich City (with whom he would, as a player sidelined for most of the campaign with injury, nevertheless be part of a squad promoted to the Premier League). Injuries perhaps prevented the forward from reaching his full potential, however, as the 35-year-old dropped down the leagues before taking the reins at Arlesey. Brother Nathan is his assistant, and his No. 1 goalkeeper too.
Current key players: Captain Ryan Frater is a mobilising presence in defence for the side, while Sol Davis - once of Luton Town - provides some big league experience and smarts. Further up the field, big things are expected of recent signing Ben Farrell - but will manager Abbey be able to resist throwing himself on in the dying stages if a goal is needed?
v. Mansfield (a)
Ground: Holloways Park (capacity 3,500)
Quick history: Vagabonds for much of their history, Slough Town (as they became known, in a final name change, after a merger with another club in 1943) have had their trials and tribulations during their existence. A Conference side up until the end of the 1990s, the club was ejected from the division in 1998, the official reason being that the new owner had refused to install the 49 extra seats required by the league at their Wexham Park home. In 2004, the last time they reached this stage of the FA Cup, Slough defeated Walsall to reach the heady heights of the second round, before being beaten by Yeading.
Famous former players: Much-loved Brighton, Wimbledon and Crystal Palace defender Eric Young enjoyed a formative spell at Slough, and the club also has two current links with Premier League side Reading - Royals manager Brian McDermott began his dugout career with Slough (after ending his playing career there), while forward Garath McCleary is also an ex-player. But it is striker Lloyd Owusu who remains the club's record sale, the powerfully-built striker commanding a £25,000 fee from Brentford back in 1998. Safe to say Owusu can't match all-time record goalscorer Ted Norris's 343 goals in 226 games, however.
Current manager: Steve Bateman. The former Everton youth team player was a popular player at Slough during his playing career, returning in 2009 to take over as the club's manager. A few seasons of playoff disappointment have followed, before this season saw them reach the first round of the FA Cup. Son Sam is on the books.
Current key players: Electrician Danny Burnell is the player most likely to cause a shock against Mansfield, the striker dominating the club's scoring charts since joining from Wealdstone in 2010. Edward Smith - signed on a dual registration from Met Police - has ably assisted him to start this campaign. In defence, Crystal Palace academy graduate and ex-Crawley Town player David Woozley brings a bit of higher-level nous to the backline.
v. Cheltenham Town (a)
Ground: Lodge Road (2,000 capacity)
Quick history: Beginning life as Yate Rovers, the club disbanded and reformed twice (once in the 1930s, once as a result of World War II) before finally finding some stability as Yate YMCA. A change to the 'Town' moniker they still hold came in 1959, but it was 24 years before the Bluebells would join the Football League pyramid, entering the Hellenic League. They joined the Southern League in 1989 after completing successive Hellenic Premier Division title wins. Since then there have been ups and downs, with the club recently reaching the Southern League Premier Division before dropping down to their current status as a Division One side.
Famous former players: Yate are not exactly renowned as a production line for future league stars, although they have hosted the likes of former Wales international Howard Pritchard and Ian Alexander at the tail-end of their careers. Big time stuff.
Current manager: Player/manager Rob Cousins is a veteran of over 1,000 league matches, having had spells at clubs including Bristol City, Bath City, Yeovil Town, Forest Green Rovers and Tiverton Town. The current season has not been too kind to him (cup run excepted), however, with Yate bottom of the Southern League Division One South and West without a win from their opening seven games.
Current key players: Young Mangotsfield product Tom Knighton is the club's main goalscoring threat, leading the charts with six goals already this season - while veteran Michael Meaker might be a name familiar to some Reading and QPR fans. At 41, however, the player/assistant manager is unlikely to play a full part in the contest (or, indeed, any part at all). Club captain Edd Vahid, meanwhile, is a consistent presence at full-back.
v. Bishops Stortford (a)
Ground: The Pilot Field (4,050 capacity)
Quick history: Currently in the Isthmian Premier League, Hastings enjoyed great success as an amateur side but their most notable moment, arguably, came in 1985. Having survived relegation from the Southern League Premier Division on the final day of the season (as results elsewhere went their way), the club subsequently ceased trading as financial issues got the better of them. Hastings Town then took on their place lower down the Southern League pyramid - progressing well before economics forced them too into administration in 1999. The club was saved at the last minute, and three years later took back the 'United' title in a nod to the past. They celebrated by reaching the first round of the FA Cup that season, before losing to Conference side Stevenage Borough.
Famous former players: Former Wimbledon player (and member of the so-called 'Crazy Gang') Mark Morris played for Hastings late in his career, while at the other end of the spectrum they were the first to spot the talent of goalkeeper Shwan Jalal - who was subsequently snapped up by Tottenham and now plays for Bournemouth. Hastings' record transfer fee received, meanwhile, is for Paul Smith - after Nottingham Forest paid £50,000 for the midfielder's potential back in 1993. Unfortunately, Smith never broke into the first team at the City Ground, eventually making a name for himself at Lincoln City.
Current manager: Player/manager Sean Ray is an uncompromising defender who was handed the reins after impressing as boss of the Under-18 side. A popular figure among the club's fans, Ray has seen his side lose four of their opening eight league matches this season, as they sit 17th in the Ryman League Premier Division.
Current key players: Bradley Goldberg is the club's goal-getter - with an impressive record of six goals in five FA Cup fixtures to date this season - although Bishops Stortford will also have to be wary of Dee Okojie, a versatile attacking presence who has played more games than any other Hastings player so far in the current campaign. Meanwhile, between the sticks young goalkeeper Matt Armstrong-Ford will look to put on a show - the 23-year-old is the son of former United goalkeeper Gerry Armstrong (no, not that one).