A ‘UNIQUE moment’ awaits Brantham Athletic on Saturday.
Not only will the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division club play in the Second Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time, but the trophy itself will be present.
Brantham Athletic, one of the lowest-ranked clubs left in the competition, host Eastbourne Borough of National League South – three steps higher up the non-league pyramid – at Brantham Leisure Centre, kick-off 3pm.
The Blue Imps have beaten Wivenhoe Town 5-0, Welwyn Garden City 1-0 and Spalding United 1-0 so far, earning more than £11,000 in prize money along the way. The winners of Saturday’s tie will receive £9,000.
It will be the second time this season that the famous old trophy has visited Suffolk, after it was at The New Croft for the Haverhill Rovers versus Haverhill Borough derby in the Extra Preliminary Round last month.
Brantham Athletic Chairman Peter Crowhurst said: “Brantham Athletic were formed in 1887 and this is probably our proudest moment as we have never reached this stage of the FA Cup before. It will be a unique moment.
“We are looking forward to playing against a club who are three tiers above us, although we have no expectations. If we win it will be a brilliant day and if we lose it will be a brilliant day. I am sure it will be a fantastic day whatever happens.”
The club are expecting their biggest crowd since 422 spectators saw Brantham beat four-times winners Whitley Bay 1-0 after extra time in the FA Vase Fourth Round in January 2013 to reach the last 16 of the competition.
Crowhurst continued: “That was a fantastic occasion and we really enjoyed it. It is difficult to compare the two as the FA Cup is probably the greatest cup competition in the world.
“We don’t know how big a crowd we will get as Ipswich Town are also at home and they need the support – and a win – on Saturday, and we are not going to cut across that.
“But we want it to be a community day, and we have invited all the clubs in the area to come along.”
The Emirates FA Cup will be at the ground from 9.45am until 8pm. Players from local teams are invited to have their photograph taken with the famous old trophy (no charge if wearing their club kit) otherwise a donation will be requested.
Former Ipswich Town players Allan Hunter and Bryan Hamilton, who were both Northern Ireland internationals, will be making a guest appearance at 11am.
A minute’s applause in memory of former Ipswich Town defender Kevin Beattie, who passed away at the age of 64 last Sunday, will be held before kick-off. Hunter played alongside ‘The Beat’ in the 1978 FA Cup-winning team.
Additional car parking will be available at the Leisure Centre with volunteers, used to dealing with a crowd of around 3,000 for the annual Fireworks Display, on hand to help out.
Brantham are one of six Suffolk sides – AFC Sudbury, Haverhill Rovers, Leiston, Lowestoft Town, Needham Market are the others – who will be competing in Saturday’s Second Qualifying Round.
Haverhill Rovers, also of the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, entertain Bostik League Premier Division side Leatherhead, who themselves have a notable FA Cup pedigree.
Suffolk FA Chairman Phil Lawler, who is also vice-chairman of Brantham Athletic, said: “For Suffolk to have six teams left in the competition at this stage is a phenomenal achievement and a reflection of the standing of grassroots football in the county on a national level.”