football | FA Cup | Trafford F.C. | Liverpool AFC

The 2022/23 season marks the 151st edition of the FA Cup and you may not be aware that the world’s most famous domestic cup competition was launched in the original offices of The Sportsman.

With a deep connection to the FA Cup, this year we decided to follow the famous trophy from the extra preliminary round to the final at Wembley Stadium. We begin with a visit to Shawe View Stadium, home of Trafford FC who take on AFC Liverpool on Saturday, and follow the victorious side through the tournament, finally ending under the famous archway.

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The magic of the cup is never lost even with non-league clubs. As this level of football is semi-professional, everyone involved at Trafford is volunteer and has a day-to-day job alongside their work at the club.

“I work in education, a private education company,” says manager Danny Caldecott. “We run courses to help unemployed people get upskilled and get them back into work.”

Founded in 1990, the Manchester-based side sit one step above the visitors in the football pyramid, but given the historic rivalry between the two cities, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding this game.

Caldecott is looking forward to the game, knowing that North West have boasts on the line as well as a place in the preliminary round.

“Playing against Liverpool AFC is obviously going to be a massive game,” said Caldecott.

“It’s a Liverpool side, born and raised and we were there last night watching from the terraces. The fans were even talking about the game. And they said things like we can’t wait to go to the Mancs on Saturday and all the rest of it – all in good jest, don’t get me wrong. But yes, it will be a big game.”

Speaking about how much of an opportunity the competition is for his players, Caldecott recalled one of his fondest memories from the FA Cup, playing against Barnet with Stalybridge Celtics.

“When I was at Stalybridge we did pretty well. I was a player there at the time. We went to Underhill and we tied 2-2, so we took them to a replay. And that was correct in the first round. We brought them to our house and were beaten 2-1 in the evening. I remember Giuliano Grazioli scoring twice that night to eliminate us.

“The FA Cup is the biggest competition in terms of our level because it’s the only occasion where we can really play against established professional sides when it comes to higher positions in the pyramid.

“Similar to Marine last year, you know, bring the glamor tie of Tottenham to their home ground, which is the dream of every aspiring, semi-professional manager and player.”

Marine were playing in the same division as Trafford when they clinched 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 huge .

Caldecott says: “I can’t begin to imagine the kind of revenue that has been brought into this club [Marine] and this community. And the FA Cup gives you that platform and if you’re lucky and work hard and get decent draws then you have the opportunity to do that.”

If Trafford advance to the next round on Saturday they will pocket £1,125. And while that figure is seen as nothing for Football League clubs, at clubs like Trafford that money can have such an impact and that’s why the FA Cup is still treasured by them.

Caldecott says: “It’s an amazing competition because you can experience things like that and I think it brings out the best in people at times, be it the club, the players, the managers. It’s just a really good opportunity for everyone to enjoy football.”

He adds: “It would be absolutely incredible to see a Tier 8 team potentially reach the third round of the FA Cup and play a team like Liverpool and emulate what Marine has done in previous seasons. 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 along in life.

Trafford FC Secretary Graham Foxall

Trafford FC Secretary Graham Foxall

“I think the biggest thing for me would be the publicity it gives people and to show what it means to get involved and get involved with a single non-league club. It’s very much the fan club. If fans come there, you can meet with the players and the manager afterwards. I always go to the bar after every single game, win, loss or draw and if anyone has any questions for me, I will answer them openly. And I think that’s what they love about 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 game would be Liverpool. I’m pretty sure everyone at the club would say Manchester United but mine would be Liverpool. It would be absolutely incredible to test your wits against someone like Jurgen Klopp and just the whole reason for Liverpool coming here would be surreal. It’s the team I follow and I honestly couldn’t imagine anything bigger in football for us at this level to be honest.”

The pressure is certainly on Trafford as they are one step ahead of their opponents but they have never left the FA Cup at this point in their history. Should they advance to the next round, they will face Runcorn Linnets at home.

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