The potential for being drawn to face a Football League club in the 1st Round of the FA Cup in November seems like a pipedream for the record number of 416 teams participating in this season’s Extra Preliminary Round at the beginning of August.
However, a remarkable 19% of those kicking off the competition this year have actually experienced the limelight of being involved in the competition in the first ‘Proper’ Round before, and some have even gone way beyond that.
Admittedly, several of those clubs achieved that feat in the days both before the Football League began and before qualifying rounds existed, but many more have done so in the 21st Century, the most recent being Skelmersdale United in the 2020-21 season, who not only appeared in the 1st Round ‘Proper’ that campaign but did so after starting out in the Extra Preliminary Round.
The most successful of all the clubs in this season’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round is also the oldest club in the round, and officially the oldest club in the world, Sheffield FC. The Club reached the Quarter Finals three times in their first five campaigns from 1873-74 to 1877-78, but have failed to reappear at that stage of the competition since qualifying rounds were introduced in 1888-89.
Another former FA Cup Quarter Finalist is Northwich Victoria who achieved the feat in in the 1883-84 season. The Vics are the club in this season’s Extra Preliminary Round that have made the most ‘Proper’ Round appearances having done so a total of 31 times, most recently reaching the 2nd Round in 2015-16 and even making the 3rd Round 10 years earlier, going down 3-0 at Premier League side Sunderland AFC.
Chatham Town reached the Quarter Finals in 1888-89, the first season of the Football League, and are the only club to reach the last eight of the FA Cup having begun their campaign in the earliest qualifying round. I wonder what the astronomical odds are that they could do the same this season 94 years after last appearing in the ‘Proper’ Rounds?
The fourth and final club in this season’s Extra Preliminary Round to have made it as far as the FA Cup Quarter Finals in the past is Glossop North End doing so in 1908-09 when the Hillmen were members of the old Second Division. The club has failed to progress beyond the qualifying rounds since World War I broke out so a similar run this year seems unlikely.
Saffron Walden Town, Bournemouth (Amateurs) and Hoddesdon Town have all appeared in the 1st Round of the FA Cup in the past but each only did so prior to the introduction of qualifying rounds, and all under former guises; Saffron Walden, Bournemouth Rovers and Hoddesdon.
Winsford United also made the 2nd Round in those pre-qualifying days under a different name, Over Wanderers, but the Blues have subsequently fought their way to the 1st Round on three separate occasions since then.
London rivals Southall FC and Clapton FC both also appeared in the ‘Proper’ Rounds before 1888-89 season, but both have also subsequently recorded their best FA Cup runs to the 3rd Round. Clapton did so in 1925-26 having beaten Southall in the previous season’s FA Amateur Cup Final and so had been exempted until the 1st Round.
Southall achieved their own feat 10 years later, though, having begun their campaign in the Extra Preliminary Round that season, winning 2-1 at home to Hayes, and eventually bowing out a record nine rounds later losing 4-1 at home to Football League Division 3 South opponents Watford FC.
Three of the 416 clubs in this season’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round have gone as far as the 4th Round in the past. Tooting and Mitcham United did so in the 1975-76 season, whilst the other two clubs achieved the feat by defeating a future FA Cup winner.
In 1954-55 Bishop Auckland were the greatest amateur team around and were about to win three successive Amateur Cup Finals. The Two Blues made the 4th Round of the FA Cup after defeating Ipswich Town 3-0 in a reply before losing 3-1 at home to York City.
Four years later Worcester City shocked Second Division Liverpool FC by winning 2-1 in the 3rd Round before losing 2-0 at home to Sheffield United.
Histon FC sort of went one better in the 2008-09 season when the Stutes defeated a former FA Cup winner in the shape of Leeds United in the 2nd Round. Glossop North End had done the same when beating Everton 2-1 in the 1913-14 season, as had Whitley Bay in 1989-90 who won 2-0 at home to Preston North End in the 2nd Round that season. Northwich Victoria would achieve a similar feat when defeating Bury FC in the 2000-01 season, and then again with a 1-0 home win over Charlton Athletic in 2009-10.
Northwich Victoria are also one of 10 clubs in this season’s Extra Preliminary Round who have appeared in the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup as recently as during the last 10 years. Corby Town and Daventry Town both did so in 2013-14, Worcester City and Didcot Town two years later, Whitehawk FC and Westfields FC the season after that, and Heybridge Swifts in 2017-18.
Westfields FC made the 1st Round after having started in the Extra Preliminary Round, as did the two most recent of the clubs appear in the ‘Proper Rounds, Chichester City in 2019-20 and Skelmersdale United a season later.
Will any of this season’s 416 clubs in the Extra Preliminary Round achieve the same great feat? I mean, it would only require the same number of victories in the FA Cup as the club that goes on to lift the Trophy would need, so why not?
Full list of clubs in this season’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round that have appeared in the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the competition in the past: Arlesey Town, Ashington FC, Aylesbury United, Barnstaple Town, Barton Rovers, Bashley FC, Bideford FC, Bishop Auckland, Boston Town, Bournemouth (Ams), Burnham FC, Burscough, Bury Town, Camberley Town, Chatham Town, Chichester City, Cinderford Town, Clapton FC, Clevedon Town, Congleton Town, Consett FC, Corby Town, Crook Town, Daventry Town, Desborough Town, Didcot Town, Ely City, Evesham United, Falmouth Town, Fareham Town, Frickley Athletic, Glossop North End, Gorleston FC, Guisborough Town, Heanor Town, Heybridge Swifts, Histon FC, Hoddesdon Town, Hythe Town, Kendal Town, Lincoln United, Littlehampton Town, March Town United, Newcastle Town, Newport (IOW), North Shields, Northwich Victoria, Penrith FC, Prescot Cables, Redbridge FC, Redhill FC, Rugby Town, Saffron Walden Town, Sheffield FC, Shepshed Dynamo, Skegness Town, Skelmersdale United, Southall FC, Spalding United, St Neots Town, Street FC, Sutton Coldfield Town, Tilbury FC, Tooting and Mitcham United, Tow Law Town, Vauxhall Motors (Ellesmere Port), Walton and Hersham, Welton Rovers, Wembley FC, West Auckland Town, Westbury United, Westfields FC, Whitehawk FC, Whitley Bay, Winsford United, Wisbech Town, Worcester City, Yorkshire Amateur.