On the road: Tividale crash out of FA Cup and miss out on £2900 payday as festival goers cost them dear
- Sportsmail followed Tividale as they bid to reach FA Cup’s first qualifying round
- Defeat saw Tividale miss out on a £2900 windfall for reaching the next round
- The club were missing four players who were on holiday or at festivals
Sportsmail is following a team from the extra preliminary round until they are beaten, then continuing with whoever defeats them.
Tividale had beaten Wednesfield 2-1 to make it this far. Journey to Wembley, the legendary chronicle of the 1976-77 tournament by Sportsmail’s Brian James, also began with them.
The club car park is full by 1.45pm: a sign that this home game, which will have drawn 168 people through the turnstiles by kick-off, is no ordinary one for Tividale.
The look in manager Dave King’s eyes as he sits in his Portakabin office — next to the lawnmower shed with its ironic ‘VIP Stand’ plaque — says much the same.
The £2,900 prize money on offer for progressing past Chasetown, who play one tier higher, to reach the FA Cup’s first qualifying round, is around half the home team’s entire annual running costs.
Tividale crashed out of the FA Cup preliminary rounds following a 5-0 defeat to Chasetown
An FA Cup run can earn non-league clubs valuable money when crowds dip during the winter
There are no transfer fees and no match fees for players here — just 40p-a-mile petrol expenses for away trips, which the home team must also pay out to today’s referee — 22-year-old Niall Smith — and his assistants.
But progression through the lowlands of the qualifying rounds is fortification against those bitter winter nights when there’ll be next to no money coming in. Just ‘a group of diehards and a dog’, as King puts it, to see them in the ninth tier Midland League Premier Division.
It’s hard to find an abundance of sympathy for clubs like Bury and Bolton Wanderers here, in the middle of a rather anonymous Black Country housing estate. It’s a world of subsistence, enterprise and survival, where man of the match voting slips sell for £1, Tividale pin badges for £3 and where the ‘No Standing’ signs in the primitive covered area are hardly necessary.
Tividale manager Dave King’s office sits next to the club’s lawnmower shed
King has four players, including captain Dan Smith, away on holiday or at festivals. ‘They all have full-time jobs. You can’t deny them their breaks,’ he says.
It means the home side are rather hoping for complacency in the opposition if they are to progress beyond this second step on the FA Cup road. Or perhaps to find the visitors cowed by the gradient of Tividale’s sloping pitch, which resembles Barnet’s in their Underhill days, and has one particularly undulating penalty area.
But this occasion means a great deal to Chasetown, too. ‘It can make your season,’ says their manager, Scott Dundas, expressing precisely the same sentiment about the prize money as King.
The club know better than most what a journey beyond the qualifiers mean. It’s 12 seasons since they became the lowest-ranked side to make the third round, where they went up against Cardiff City before goals from a 17-year-old debutant, Aaron Ramsey, proved decisive. Their biggest pay-day — £84,000 — came two years earlier with a televised first round tie with Oldham.
It’s immediately evident that this year’s run will not be ending here. The Staffordshire side are immediately operating on a higher technical level, with former West Bromwich Albion trainee George Cater outstanding as they race into a 3-0 lead inside 18 minutes.
The 22-year-old drifts airily around the right-hand side of the pitch, providing a goal and scoring one of his own in the bottom left-hand corner after centre forward Liam Kirton’s deflected shot had put the visiting team ahead.
Tividale pass the ball ambitiously long, concede possession too often, and though they rally, it’s a damage-limitation exercise in searing heat.
‘Get your thinking head on,’ a supporter shouts to King as he departs at half-time. He grins, bringing out something better in his players after the break. Darragh Bustin’s right-foot shot is palmed on to the bar. Liam Wilkinson, Tividale’s orchestrator, strikes the same metal with a free-kick.
But Chasetown’s Levi Reid, Alex Curtis and Tom Urwin have time on the ball to stop and assess their options. Theirs is a club with resources to sign a few players to a contract, if that’s what’s needed to keep them, though they, too, exist on a creed of sustainability.
‘Hold what you’ve got. Improve what you can. Go to where you can be self-sustaining. That’s us,’ says benefactor Mike Joiner, supping tea in the directors’ room.
They are four goals to the good just before the hour — Cater pouncing in the box — and Reid’s low left-foot shot concludes matters, two minutes from time.
King is sanguine and already looking to the visit of local arch-rivals Lye Town in the Midlands League today. It’s the game both teams looked out for when the fixtures were published. ‘I’ve managed them. Their manager’s managed us,’ he says. ‘Today was a free hit. The next one isn’t.’