The 100 Year Wait for an FA Cup Win

Through my research of club records in the FA Cup I often unearth information about a club about which even members of that club are unware. One such instance this season was with regards to Peterborough Sports who, in their view, were entering the Cup for the first time in their history, but who I discovered had partaken in the competition back in the 1920s under a previous club name, Brotherhoods Works.

There was a 93 year gap between Brotherhoods Works last FA Cup match in 1922/23 season, a 2-1 Preliminary Round replay defeat at Desborough Town, and Peterborough Sports first FA Cup tie this season, a 1-0 win at Eynesbury Rovers. That 93 year gap was tentatively considered a record gap between cup ties, one which the club garnered much publicity about, particularly within their local region.

Additionally, the club’s 1-0 win was their first in the competition since Brotherhoods Works beat Bourne Town by the same scoreline in 1919, creating a gap of 96 years between FA Cup wins. Could this be another record gap for Peterborough Sports to celebrate? Well, of course, I had to do some digging, and what I found out was that there is a club that had gone longer between FA Cup wins, and as it happens, had actually gone longer than the 93 year wait to take part in the competition.

Holwell Works was formed in 1902 and, whilst competing in the Leicestershire Senior League, entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1910/11 season, where they lost their Extra Preliminary Round tie 3-2 at Sutton Town from Ashfield in Nottinghamshire. Holwell then entered the FA Cup three more times before World War I broke out, changing leagues to the Original Central Alliance during that time, and registering their one and only FA Cup win in the Extra Preliminary Round of the 1912/13 competition, 3-1 against Whitwick Imperial.

Holwell competed in the Leicester League between the two World Wars, returning to the Leicestershire Senior League in 1946 where the club remained until joining the East Midlands Central League in 2008, having by then also changed their name to Holwell Sports in 1988. Throughout that whole period the club was absent from the FA Cup, but it was by virtue of being members of the EMCL that they were able to return in the 2009/10 season. That return was to end a 95 year hiatus from the competition, two years longer than Peterborough Sports had had to wait.

Graham Lewin, Holwell Sports Chairman and former manager of the club for 20 years, said “The club was in too low a level to be involved in the FA Cup for many, many years. There was no consideration for the history when we returned a few years ago, but it’s amazing to now learn that we may hold some kind of record in the competition.”

Holwell were unsuccessful in their first four seasons back in the FA Cup (even failing to take part in 2011/12) losing all four of their Extra Preliminary Round matches, but last season they finally managed another FA Cup victory. This took the form of a 3-0 win over fellow EMCL side, Graham Street Prims, and marked an amazing 103 year gap between tasting victories in this prestigious competition, a total of seven years more than Peterborough Sports.

Just as with buses, you wait 103 years for one FA Cup win and another comes along two weeks later, a 3-1 Preliminary Round win at Northern Counties East League side, Retford United. The winning streak came to an abrupt halt two further weeks later, a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Northern Premier League Division One South outfit, Spalding United. The club has won through their Extra Preliminary Round this year and Holwell can console themselves with the knowledge that they hold two FA Cup records that will probably never be beaten, maybe even a third record given they have always played at the original Holwell Works sports ground, that is unless further research throws up yet another surprise!

2015/16 FA Cup Preliminary Round Preview

So for 184 clubs the FA Cup dream is over for another year, whilst a further 136 clubs, from Step 4 in the Non-League pyramid, enter the fray to try their luck at remaining in the competition until at least November.

Club Badges 15-16 EP Round KOs-page-001

Of the 160 Preliminary Round ties to be played over the August Bank Holiday weekend just 30 of them are being contested by clubs who have faced each other in the competition before. Of these match-ups it is Wisbech Town versus Holbeach United that pits the most familiar foes together, and in their case that is just four previous contests, with the Tigers of Holbeach having the upper hand over their United Counties League Premier Division opponents, with 3 wins to one.

There are 37 other ties that bring teams together who compete in the same League this season, and this includes some Step 4 battles such as Wantage Town versus Didcot Town from the Southern League Division One South and West. These sides faced each other just two seasons ago with the Railwaymen coming out on top 3-2.

One of last season’s FA Cup stars, Warrington Town, join the competition at this stage again. Last season they went all the way to the Second Round Proper, beating League Two side Exeter City in Round One before finally succumbing to Gateshead in their seventh Cup match of the season. That’s one more game played than the eventual winners, Arsenal.

Club Badges 15-16 PR Round-page-001

Several clubs appear in the Preliminary Round for the first time in their FA Cup history. These include Cadbury Athletic in at their fifth attempt, Radford, Hook Norton Phoenix Sports and Brimscombe & Thrupp all in their second campaigns, and Wessex League Premier side Verwood Town who finally registered an FA Cup win at the sixth time of asking. Other clubs such as Shaw Lane Aquaforce, AFC Bridgnorth, Hinckley AFC, Hanley Town, Risborough Rangers, Spelthorne Sports, Rochester United, Seven Acre and Sidcup, Bexhill United, Wincanton Town and Andover Town are all FA Cup debutants each seeing how far they can go on their first exciting Cup adventure, hoping to emulate Coalville Town who spectacularly went all the way to the First Round Proper in their inaugural season.

Some clubs making their bow in the Cup at this stage have already experienced matches at a much higher level in the competition, but in all cases it was in the dim and distant past. For instance, Marlow, currently plying their trade in the Southern League South and West, have actually played in a Cup Semi-Final, albeit 133 years ago and a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Old Etonians. At least Marlow are still contesting the FA Cup and can dream of experiencing such dizzy heights again, however unlikely that may be. Other clubs with FA Cup Quarter Final experience include Glossop North End, Northwich Victoria and the oldest football club in the world, Sheffield.

All of those clubs experienced their best ever FA Cup performance more than 100 years ago, but the club who has had to wait the longest since they registered their best Cup run is Uxbridge of the Southern League Central. Uxbridge first entered the FA Cup in the 1873/74 season where they made it as far as the Second Round. Admittedly, this just required a First Round 3-0 win over a team named Gitanos from Battersea, before succumbing 2-1 to Royal Engineers, but in the following 142 years the club has not even matched that first season high, never even venturing into the Proper Rounds again in all that time. But still they can dream.

Look up #FACupPR on Twitter for a full Preliminary Round match-by-match statistical analysis by @FACupFactfile

2015/16 FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Review

Three hundred and sixty eight teams contested 184 FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round ties which have consequently resulted in twice as many clubs being eliminated from the competition by mid-August than the number of teams exempt from playing in it until at least late November.

Whilst 20 clubs were making their bow in this illustrious competition, Essex Senior League side Clapton was making its 120th appearance, the most of any club competing at this stage, but unluckily the club exited at this early stage for the 13th time. Of those 20 first timers, half of them were victorious as AFC Bridgnorth, Andover Town, Bexhill United, Hanley Town, Hinckley AFC, Risborough Rangers, Rochester United, Seven Acre & Sidcup, Spelthorne Sports and Wincanton Town all have more FA Cup wins under their belt already than 10 clubs who’ve previously experienced FA Cup football.

To be fair to clubs such as Chinnor, Harrowby United, Hythe & Dibden, and Wellingborough Whitworths, they’ve only had one previous bite of the cherry, whereas other clubs have failed to register an FA Cup victory on several occasions. AFC Croydon and Team Solent have three campaigns each, Amesbury and Fawley have four, and Barnoldswick Town have competed five times without success. However, topping this unwanted table is Holyport, the Hellenic League Premier side failing to progress for the sixth successive time of asking.

There are also many clubs who do actually know the taste of FA Cup victory at this stage of the competition, but who are increasingly having to rely on their ever fading memories to remember what it tasted like. More than 40 clubs have had between three to seven successive campaigns without an FA Cup win, whilst two others top this list with eight. Diss Town has been eliminated in the Extra Preliminary Round every year in the last eight seasons, not actually having won an FA Cup tie since beating Needham Market 5-2 in a Preliminary Round match in 2005. Likewise, Sawbridgeworth Town has seen eight successive FA Cup campaigns end in Extra Preliminary Round defeat, but this spans over 11 seasons and the club’s last victory in the competition was a 1-0 win over Wisbech Town in the Extra Preliminary Round in 2004.

Many clubs this season have taken themselves out of the running for most consecutive Extra Preliminary Round defeats by registering their first victory in a while. Twenty Four clubs had had between two to five successive FA Cup campaigns without seeing Preliminary Round action, but Alsager Town had not appeared in that round since 2007/08 season, seven successive defeats halted by a 1-0 win over Athersley Recreation.

One club who are more used to Extra Preliminary Round defeats than any other is Wolverhampton Casuals, whose 1-0 defeat at the hands of newcomers AFC Bridgnorth was their 21st such exit at this stage of the competition, extending their lead at the top of this particular unwanted statistic. In fact the club has only not been eliminated this early in five other campaigns.

Two clubs have registered their first wins in the competition for the first time in more than half a century, but in both cases this is due to the fact that they have not regularly been competing in the Cup. Heaton Stannington returned after an absence of 39 years to beat Norton and Stockton Ancients 3-1, their first win since a 3-2 replay victory over Lynemouth Welfare in 1954. But Peterborough Sports has had to wait considerably longer for its second win in the competition. As Brotherhoods Works, the club competed in the FA Cup in the last four seasons following the end of World War One, registering just one official victory in that time, their first match 1-0 win over Bourne Town in 1919. And now, a mere 96 years later the club can celebrate its second FA Cup win, this time another 1-0 victory over Eynesbury Rovers. This 96 year gap between FA Cup wins may well be a record, but if my investigations prove to be correct, I think I’ve identified another club who had a 102 year gap between successive FA Cup wins! Watch this space.

By winning their Extra Preliminary Round ties, several clubs will this season at least equal their personal best performance in the competition. Some clubs have only had two or three seasons of FA Cup involvement, others like Newton Aycliffe (5 seasons), AFC Liverpool (6), Holmesdale and Kirby Muxloe (both 7) have had a few more, but with 17 FA Cup campaigns under its belt already, Hullbridge Sports will be the keenest of this bunch to go at least one round further.

There were many clubs competing in the Extra Preliminary Round this season nervously worrying that like Worksop Town last season they would be exiting the competition at this stage for the first time in their history. Particularly breathing a sigh of relief will be Stourport Swifts (in their 24th campaign), AFC Hayes (22nd) and Ashford Town (Mdx) (21st), but the club most mightily relieved is Eastbourne Town with an unblemished 66 previous FA Cup runs avoiding such an early exit to protect. I could hear the collective ‘phew’ at Colliers Wood at full time even though I was at Nelson FC.

Other clubs weren’t so fortunate. Several have had only a handful of FA Cup campaigns without tasting defeat at this stage, whilst Horndean has been knocked out in this round for the first time in 16 seasons. However, with 78 previous campaigns already, all avoiding an Extra Preliminary Round exit, it is Brigg Town who are suffering the most following the club’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of Cleethorpes Town. There are also many clubs who’ve not been knocked out of the Cup so early for quite some time. Two, in particular, last tasted Extra Preliminary Round defeat in the 20th Century. Rainworth Miners Welfare, then known as Rufford Colliery, lost 5-3 to Bourne Town in 1949 before 66 years later losing 5-1 to Bottesford Town in a replay this year. However, Clevedon Town goes back even further since last tasting Extra Preliminary Round defeat. This year it’s been a 3-0 loss to Buckland Athletic, back in 1932 it was a 5-4 defeat to St Phillips Marsh Adult School. With their 1-0 win over Lancing in this year’s competition, Horsham avoided an even worse gap, not actually having lost in the Extra Preliminary Round since 1924, a 3-0 defeat to Worthing.

Some clubs by progressing to the Preliminary Round give themselves an opportunity to go one step further for the first time in a long while. No team does this apply to more than to Washington, who hope to make an appearance the First Qualifying Round for the first time since the 1979/80 season.

There were some high scorers in this year’s Extra Preliminary Round. AFC Emley, Deal Town (in a replay) and Horley Town all scored seven; Ashford Town (Mdx), Consett (in a replay) and Shoreham all hit eight; AFC Liverpool scored nine times away from home; but the highest marksmen were Coleshill Town netting 11 times without reply against Ellesmere Rangers, a feat made all the more remarkable considering they would not have been expected to top last season’s 10-0 win over Nuneaton Griff at the same stage last year. The two matches between Sunderland Ryhope Community Association and Guisborough Town produced a total of 13 goals, whilst Bedfont & Feltham only progressed through their match with London Tigers courtesy of an 8-7 win on penalties.

Witch Whirred Wood Yew Chews?

A lot can happen when travelling to an FA Cup match 200 miles away from home. Most of what occurs is exactly as one would expect such as traffic jams on the M6 through Birmingham, awful food and coffee at the service station and the inevitable incorrect direction from the satnav leading to a lot of worry then fret then panic that you won’t be able to find the ground in time for kick-off amongst the newly built identikit housing estates. All those things happened on my way to Victoria Park (AKA Little Wembley) to watch Nelson FC of the North West Counties League take on Newton Aycliffe of the Northern League in the Extra Preliminary Round of this year’s FA Cup. But another unexpected event happened on the way, one that in the end managed to touch upon almost every aspect of my life.

I am what I would refer to as an infrequent ground visitor, a groundhopper lite if you like, with the majority of grounds visited done so as part of my passion for watching FA Cup matches. My companion for my trip to Nelson was one Laurence Reade of GroundhopUK, who with over 1,700 grounds visited could not be regarded as a light groundhopper. Laurence was aware I was approaching my 100th ground, and knowing of my love for the FA Cup suggested that Nelson’s Victoria Park on FA Cup EP round day would be a memorable venue suitable to commemorate my minor milestone. It was also a ground that Laurence hadn’t yet visited having had to abort a similar attempt at this same stage last year thanks to that inevitable travel logjam on the M6.

Laurence was driving so I bugged him for use of his roving internet signal on his mobile so that I could access my @FACupFactfile Twitter account on what is the busiest day in my FA Cup calendar. I wanted to see and share all the excitement that was being communicated from up and down the country about individual club’s FA Cup adventures. In my private messages, though, was a request from Radio 5 Live’s Non-League Show to be interviewed for a special FA Cup edition of their show to be recorded that evening and aired early the following morning. This was a nice surprise and a welcome additional PR opportunity coming hot on the heels of the FA Cup Factfile being featured in the Non-League Paper the previous Sunday.

I was going to be interviewed by Liam Bradford from the show at about 8.15pm. I warned the researcher that it was likely that I’d still be travelling back from Nelson, but that I would be available to join in. It was going to be tight to be home in time for the interview but I prepared a plan in my head for how I would deal with it whatever the stage of my travel back from the match. On arriving at Nelson, it was obvious Laurence was correct in his assertion that it would be a memorable ground for my 100th visit, a unique stadium faced by a row of mill cottages down one side of the pitch in front of what is now probably a listed mill chimney. Whilst the ground was very memorable for me, not least because the programme was jam-packed full of @FACupFactfile facts and blogs, the host club will want to forget all about the match, losing 4-0 and being knocked out at this stage of the competition for the seventh successive campaign.




We left straight after the match had finished and I was about five minutes from home thinking that I was going to make it there in time when the phone rang. It was the Non-League Show with what I expected to be the one minute warning I was about to join the show. However, the call was to tell me it would be another 10 minutes, and relieved as I was that I’d be able to make the interview at home, the best thing about the call was that it was from Joel Hammer. Joel had recognised my name and was keen to speak with me. Joel used to present on BBC Radio Oxford and had been a stand-in presenter on the day in 2011 when that radio station had interviewed me about a board game I had created called Whirred PLAY. This was a most pleasant surprise, but thought nothing more of it. Click on link to learn all about WhirredPLAY

So finally at home, settled in front of all my @FACupFactfile facts and stats, I awaited the call from the Non-League Show. It duly arrived and I had an excellent conversation with Liam Bradford and his guests regarding the 21st Century FA Cup club rankings I had produced. And then, out of the blue, Liam decided to ask me about WhirredPLAY. This was a very unexpected turn of events and caught unawares I hope I did the game justice in the brief 30 seconds I had to talk about it in what was a terrific opportunity to increase awareness of WhirredPLAY. Whirred PLAY Box

So, it just goes to show, you just never know what might happen when you decide to make a 400 mile round trip to watch a football match at a ground, and in a part of a competition, about which the majority of football watchers are unaware, but what we in the real football world know only too well. And, despite what was said once I had left the conversation, I do have a beautiful wife and two wonderful teenage sons!

Witch Whirred Wood Yew Chews

Here’s the link to the interview that starts 24 mins in

Alternatively for non-UK readers here’s the audio file!5868?NewToGroove=true

2015/16 FA Cup Match Posters

I’ll be publishing here as many 2015/16 FA Cup match posters as possible. Do keep returning to see the wonderful variety of ways clubs enthusiastically try to encourage football fans to come to watch their FA Cup adventure.

2nd Round Replay

R2R Whitehawk

2nd Round

R2 RochdaleR2 BarnetR2 BarnetR2 Welling UtdR2 Grimsby Town

1st Round Replay

R1R Oxford UtdR1R Boreham WoodR1R Newport County

1st Round

R1 Brackley TownR1 Dover AthleticR1 AltrinchamR1 Didcot TownR1 WhitehawkR1 Aldershot TownR1 BarwellR1 Crewe AlexandraR1 Brackley Town

4th Qualifying Round Replay

Q4R North Ferriby Utd

4th Qualifying Round

Q4 Chippenham TownQ4 Grays AthleticQ4 Grays Athletic 2Q4 WhitehawkQ4 AFC Hornchurrchbrackley-page-001Q4 MargateQ4 Tranmere RoversQ4 Sporting Khalsa-page-001Q4 Chesham Utd-page-001 (1)Q4 WrexhamQ4 BarwellQ4 Brackley TownQ4 Harrogate Town

3rd Qualifying Round Replay

Q3R Gosport BoroughQ3R Rugby TownQ3R Bath CityQ3R Bamber Bridge

3rd Qualifying Round

Q3 Chesham UtdQ3 Enfield TownQ3 AveleyQ3 East ThurrockQ3 Aveley 2Q3 Wingate and Finchley 2Q3 North Ferriby UtdQ3 WhitehawkQ3 Wingate and FinchleyQ3 Hastings UnitedQ3 Sporting KalsaQ3 Basingstoke TownQ3 Solihull MoorsQ3 BrockenhurstQ3 Brackley TownQ3 BarwellQ3 Brackley Town 2

2nd Qualifying Round Replay

Q2R Maidenhead United

2nd Qualifying Round

Q2 Grays Athletic1Q2 WhitehawkQ2 Wingate and FinchleyQ2 StourbridgeQ2 Grays AthleticQ2 Basford UtdQ2 Holbeach UnitedQ2 Horsham YMCAQ2 Newton AycliffeQ2 Gainsborough TrinityQ2 SittingbourneQ2 BrockenhurstQ2 Bradford TownQ2 Larkhall AthleticQ2 Chatham TownQ2 Rugby TownQ2 Deeping RangersQ2 HayesYeading-page-001Q2 BarwellQ2 ConsettQ2 Potters Bar Town

1st Qualifying Round Replays

Q1R Bamber BridgeQ1R Farnborough1Q1R Skelmersdale Utd

1st Qualifying Round

Q1 Sporting KhalsaQ1 WorthingQ1 YaxleyQ1 Newcastle TownQ1 Northwich VicsQ1 Rochester UtdQ1 Bury TownQ1 Biggleswade UtdQ1 Poole TownQ1 GNEQ1 KingstonianQ1 Hartley WintneyQ1 Beaconsfield SYCOBQ1 Bideford Re-arrangedQ1 BarwellQ1 BedfontFelthamQ1 Needham Market

Preliminary Round Replays

PRR GuernseyPRR Brightlingsea RegentPRR SpennymoorPRR Tower Hamlets

Preliminary Round

PR Farnham TownPR BurscoughPR ConsettPR North ShieldsPR HaringeyPR GNEPR Cray ValleyPR DunkirkPR Deeping RgrsPR RomfordPR TadcasterPR Risborough RangersPR Bradford TownPR WisbechPR ClipstonePR Saffron WTPR StanstedPR Welwyn GCPR SholingPR Bedfont FelthamPR Harlow TownPR MarskePR 1874 NorthwichPR Biggleswade Utd 1PR HarboroughPR BinfieldPR Runcorn LinnetsPR AFC WulfruniansPR CockfostersPR Radford

Extra Preliminary Round Replay


Extra Preliminary Round


Better than the Champions League?

Many a TV pundit will state, often appearing very misty eyed at the time, that the FA Cup is the greatest club Cup competition in the world. But is it, is it really? How can it be better than, say, the Champions League, a competition that purports to be contested for by the greatest footballers on the planet, playing for the most famous teams in the world, and watched by millions all around the globe? Well, it will come as no surprise to you that I’m with those rose tinted glasses wearing pundits on this one. The FA Cup is the greatest Cup competition of them all. And here’s why.

First, let me make some straightforward factual comparisons. The Champions League is now 60 years old, first being contested for as the European Cup by 16 mainland European teams in the 1955/56 season, the final culminating in the first of 10 record wins for Real Madrid. Sixty years is a long time, longer than I’ve even been alive, but by 1955 the FA Cup was already 84 years old! In those 84 years there had already been 74 finals with 35 different winners and over 2,400 clubs had taken part. The European Cup was just a metaphorical great grandchild of the FA Cup!

But, of course, that’s all in the past. What about today? How can the FA Cup be compared favourably with the Champions League? Well, let’s look at the number of teams that participate in each competition each year. The misnamed Champions League has just 78 clubs vying for that trophy each season. The FA Cup sees almost 10 times as many participants, 736 in all. Even if you allow for the fact that clubs have to qualify for the Champions League through their own domestic leagues the previous season (effectively the equivalent of qualifying rounds for the competition), there are still only 706 clubs that could qualify for the Champions League all across Europe. That’s still 30 short of the restricted number of entries into the FA Cup.

Ah, but the quality of the teams in the Champions League is far higher than in the FA Cup and therefore that makes it better. That quality differential may very well be true, but another reason why the oldest cup competition in the world is better than its more glamorous descendent is because it is a straightforward knockout competition. If you lose a match in the FA Cup then you are out. There are no second chances. Presuming the winner of the Champions League comes from a team exempt until the group stages, then that winner could in theory lose six matches and still be crowned Champions of Europe. Six defeats! You lose six matches in the FA Cup, that’s six years without winning the FA Cup.

Finally, and most critically in my opinion, the reason why the FA Cup is the best cup competition in the world is because it’s all about the clubs and, in particular, everyone involved in the club. The Champions League seems to me to be all about individual glory, with focus on the star players being paramount in the eyes of the TV media and press, but the FA Cup is about those who help run the clubs, not just the players getting the result on the day, but the management team, the back-room staff, the gate-people, the stewards, the volunteers, the fans. Go to any FA Cup match in August and you can’t fail to be impressed by the passion emanating from all quarters, not passion borne out of potential FA Cup glory, but passion based on pride in the club and the fact the community it represents is taking part in the greatest Cup competition in the world.

There may be, albeit modest, monetary reward for winning an FA Cup match at this stage, but that’s not why the club, its players, staff and fans are delighted. No, a win means they have another opportunity to be involved in this famous tournament, another opportunity to create future anecdotes, a further chance to be mentioned in the same breath as the illustrious winners. Ask any past player of any club who participated in the early rounds of the FA Cup if he actually played in the competition and his face will light up as he tells you all about it. The Champions League may well be all about the worldwide glory, but the FA Cup is all about a sense of collective pride, and that is what makes it the best Cup competition in the world.

Addendum. This blog has been translated into Chinese and published on many sites in China e.g.

Long Forgotten Memories

For fans of most clubs participating in the 2015/16 FA Cup it is possible to remember their team’s best ever run in the competition because it will have happened since the Year 2000 or at least in their own living memory. Some clubs do have to go back to before the last World War to find their own best ever Cup run, and it is highly likely that no-one but the oldest members of the club can recall it, but for a handful of teams even that is not possible. Because for all the teams detailed below, their best ever FA Cup campaigns actually happened in the days of Queen Victoria, more than 115 years ago.

141 Years – Uxbridge – Best Ever Cup Run – Second Round – Last time 1873/74

This was the first season that Uxbridge, formed in 1871, participated in the FA Cup and it was in only the third season of the competition’s fledgling history, in a contest that saw only 28 teams take part. Uxbridge beat a team from Battersea, with the exotic moniker of Gitanos, 3-0 in the First Round before succumbing 2-1 to Royal Engineers in The Reds one and only appearance in the Second Round. It’s probably unfair to compare the Second Round of the FA Cup in the 19th Century with the Second Round of today, but since the formation of the Football League and the introduction of Qualifying Rounds, Uxbridge has only ever made it as far as the Fourth Qualifying Round on two occasions, the last 80 years ago in 1935.

135 Years – Sheffield – Best Ever Cup Run – Fourth Round – Last time 1879/80

The ‘World’s Oldest Football Club’ entered the FA Cup for the 100th time last season, but since the Football League was formed in 1888, the club has only ever come close to reaching the ‘Proper’ rounds of the Cup on five occasions, their last visit to the Fourth Qualifying Round as recently as the 2010/11 season. However, for 15 years prior to that they had entered the competition and by default had reached at least the First Round every time, but made it as far as the Fourth Round on two occasions, the first time in 1877/78 this actually equated to reaching the Quarter Finals of the competition.

134 Years – Saffron Walden Town – Best Ever Cup Run – First Round – Last time 1880/81

Saffron Walden (the Town suffix didn’t appear until after the First World War) made three appearances in the FA Cup prior to the formation of the Football League, each time unfortunately being unable to record a victory, but nonetheless being on record as reaching the First Round of the competition. The club scratched instead of facing the mighty Wanderers club in 1876/77, lost 5-0 to Upton Park in 1878/79 season, and lost 7-0 to eventual Cup winners Old Carthusians in 1880/81. In fact the club didn’t actually win an FA Cup match until 1946/47 season when they won 4-2 against Ware, and the furthest The Bloods have ever progressed in the competition, outside of those early days, is the Second Qualifying Round.

133 Years – Maidenhead United – Best Ever Cup Run – Fourth Round – Last time 1881/82

133 Years – Marlow – Best Ever Cup Run – Semi Finals – Last time 1881/82

Maidenhead United and Marlow are intrinsically linked in the history of the FA Cup. They are the only two teams still competing in the competition that participated in the inaugural contest in 1871/72, and they hold the joint record of most appearances with the 2015/16 season being their 134th campaign. In fact each of the two sides has only failed to compete in one campaign. And 1881/82 proved to be the last season both would record their personal best Cup runs. It was the third time Maidenhead had made it to the Fourth Round, the first occasion in 1872/73 also being the equivalent of the Quarter Finals. Maidenhead has a slightly better overall average performance in the FA Cup than their close neighbours, but it is Marlow who has progressed the further, with this 1881/82 Semi Final appearance where they lost 5-0 to the eventual winners Old Etonians. Of course, all this occurred in the days before Qualifying Rounds, and since they were introduced The Magpies have made it to the First Round ‘Proper’ on seven separate occasions, most recently in 2011/12 season, whilst Marlow has made it as far as the Third Round twice, both times in the mid-nineties.

131 Years – Northwich Victoria – Best Ever Cup Run – Fifth Round – Last time 1883/84

Formed in 1874, The Vics reached the Fifth Round (and Quarter Finals) of the FA Cup just over 10 years later, although the 9-1 defeat to eventual winners Blackburn Olympic sours the achievement somewhat. This was the club’s only significant run in the competition in those pre-Football League years, but since then the closest they have come to replicating that performance was a spectacular Fourth Round appearance in 1976/77, their 11th match and eighth tie in that year’s competition, finally succumbing to Second Division Oldham Athletic after seeing off League sides Rochdale, Peterborough United and Watford.

130 Years – Chatham Town – Best Ever Cup Run – Fifth Round – Last time 1884/85

130 Years – Hoddesdon Town – Best Ever Cup Run – First Round – Last time 1884/85

Under the name Hoddesdon, this was the only 19th Century appearance in the FA Cup for the club, an 8-0 defeat at the hands of the Old Foresters club. Since returning to the competition in 1931/32, the furthest the club has gone is the Third Qualifying Round they achieved in that return season, and most recently in 1969/70. Chatham (United), on the other hand, had a few forays in the competition in the 1880s, adding two Third Round appearances to this Fifth Round effort. The number of clubs entering the competition had grown significantly since the competition’s foundation, and as a consequence this was the first season when the Fifth Round didn’t equate to the Quarter Finals. Since the introduction of the Qualifying Rounds, Chatham has made it through to the First Round ‘Proper’ a few times, with their best performance a Second Round appearance in 1926/27 where they lost 5-0 to Norwich City.

Eight other clubs have to look as far back as these Victorian days to identify their best ever Cup runs. Clitheroe, then named Clitheroe Central had four First Round appearances most latterly in 1885/86 season, 129 years ago. They did register their first FA Cup win three years later, 3-2 against Blackburn Park Road, but the Third Qualifying Round is the furthest they have progressed since then. Ashton United made the Second Round for the last time also in 1885/86, but then the club was known as Hurst, and on both occasions they reached that far in the competition, the club withdrew, both times after their initial victory had been voided. The club came close to matching their best run twice in the Fifties soon after adopting its current name, losing out to Halifax Town in 1952/53 and Southport in 1955/56.

Bournemouth (Amateurs), Gainsborough Trinity and Lincoln City all recorded their best FA Cup runs for the last time in 1886/87 season, 128 years ago. The Dorset based club, not to be confused with AFC Bournemouth, had three successive First Round appearances when known as Bournemouth Rovers, not actually winning its first competitive FA Cup match until 1913/14, a 5-0 Preliminary Round win over RGA Weymouth. Gainsborough Trinity actually made it to the Third Round in 1886/87 where they lost 1-0 to Lincoln City after a replay who, thanks to a bye in the next round, made it to the Fifth Round for their one and only time. Both former League teams have made many more appearances in the ‘Proper’ rounds of the Cup, but both have fallen at best one round short of their personal best.

The 1887/88 season saw Crewe Alexandra make it all the way to the Semi Finals, coming through six rounds before losing 4-0 to Preston North End. Since that Semi-Final 127 seasons ago, the nearest the club has ever got to repeating the feat is two Fifth Round appearance in 1990/91 and 2001/02. Winsford United also had their best ever Cup run in the 1887/88 season when, under the guise of their former name Over Wanderers, the club made the Second Round in its first appearance in the competition. The Football League was formed the following season and Qualifying Rounds were introduced into the FA Cup simultaneously, and as a consequence Winsford has only made three subsequent appearances in the First Round of the competition, a 4-1 defeat to Peterborough United in 1975/76, a 5-2 loss at Wrexham in 1991/92 and a 2-1 defeat at Chester City in 1991/98, all that separated the club from equalling their best ever performance.

Notts County also set their personal best Cup performance in the 19th Century, actually 121 years ago, but they are unique amongst this select group of clubs in the fact that their best performance was as being crowned FA Cup winners in 1893/94, the first occasion a second tier club won the competition. Since that win, the closest the club has ever come to repeating the feat was a solitary Semi-Final appearance in 1921/22 losing 3-1 to Huddersfield Town. Ironically, the club’s Ladies team has a big opportunity to lift the Women’s FA Cup at Wembley this Saturday to further rub salt into this wound.

So, in total 16 clubs competing in the 2015/16 FA Cup all registered their best ever Cup runs in the competition during the Victorian era. Another eight other clubs; Bury, Bristol City, Glossop North End, Bradford City, Barnsley, Swindon Town, Burnley and Stamford also all recorded their best ever Cup performances more than 100 years ago, before the First World War, joining this Victorian group in providing their fans with excruciatingly long waits to see their beloved club at least equal their best FA Cup record.

Follow @FACupFactfile on Twitter for distinct & often unique FA Cup facts & stats 

Most One-Sided FA Cup Match-Ups

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When two clubs meet frequently in the FA Cup it is common that, over time, they manage to balance out the victories between them. However, that is not always the case, and the following list of one-sided FA Cup meetings show that for certain teams, listening to the draw can fill them with dread for fear that they get pitted against their FA Cup nemesis.

Listed in reverse order of size of head-to-head disparity

8-2 Arsenal v Leeds United (plus seven draws) – Arsenal won yet again in the 2019-20 season, but Leeds United won the one that mattered most, the 1972 Centenary FA Cup Final – Goals 23 v 14

7-1 Bath City v Weston-super-Mare – Weston-super-Mare finally won 1-0 at the eighth attempt – Goals 24 v 3

9-2 Manchester United v Derby County (plus three draws) – Derby County only ever won in 19th Century against Newton Heath. Clubs met again in 2019-20 competition – Goals 29 v 15

9-2 Manchester United v Southampton – Eleven meetings, nine won by Man Utd (although Southampton won when it mattered), with five draws, one a replay won by Southampton on penalties – Goals 29 v 13

8-1 Weymouth v Poole Town – Nine meetings, eight won by Weymouth, with three draws – Goals 27 v 13

8-1 West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Nine meetings, eight won by West Brom, with two draws – Goals 19 v 7

7-0 Peterborough United v Tranmere Rovers – Seven meetings, all won by The Posh, with Tranmere Rovers managing just two draws – Goals 22 v 4

7-0 Chelsea v Leicester City (plus two draws) – One of the draws was the first leg of their 3rd Round meeting in 1945-46 season – the two clubs last met in 2019-20 Quarter Finals – Goals 17 v 5

9-1 Manchester United v Reading – Nine meetings, eight won by Manchester United, five draws – Goals 32 v 13

8-0 Poole Town v Bridport – Eight meetings all won by Poole, no draws – Goals 34 v 7

8-0 Great Yarmouth Town v Bungay Town – Eight meetings all won by Great Yarmouth, with one draw – Goals 26 v 11

8-0 Kettering Town v Stamford – Eight meetings all won by Kettering, with one draw – Goals 39 v 10

8-0 Lowestoft Town v Sheringham – Eight meetings all won by Lowestoft, with one draw – Goals 37 v 10

8-0 Spennymoor Town v Stockton – Eight meetings all won by Spennymoor, with three draws – Goals 28 v 11 (Nb. Technically this is against two different sides called Stockton, one game was against the Stockton club that became Thornaby)

8-0 Chelsea v Hull City (plus three draws) – Last met in 2019-20 competition – Goals 25 v 7

9-0 Trowbridge Town v Westbury United – Nine meetings all won by Trowbridge, with one draw – Goals 40 v 9

10-1 Kettering Town v Rushden Town – 11 meetings, 10 won by Kettering, with three draws – Goals 31 v 12

11-1 Trowbridge Town v Devizes Town – 12 meetings, 11 won by Trowbridge, with two draws – Goals 54 v 19

Love of the Common Cup

Why does the FA Cup have such a hold on me?

Why do I have a passion for following the exploits of teams that have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever lifting the famous trophy? Why have I been obsessed with capturing the records of every club that has ever entered the competition? It’s not as if my club has any real pedigree in the competition, well not in my conscious lifetime anyway.

I’ve supported Leeds United since the early seventies, but I have only a vague recollection of watching their 1972 triumph ‘live’ on TV, even though I know I did. I have a better memory of watching the final the following year, although that might be because it is replayed ad nauseum every time Sunderland play a cup game.

And since then, just two semi-finals and a spattering of quarter finals is all that the club has to show for over 40 years of effort. Given that only 15 different clubs have won the competition since 1972, there must be millions of football fans in the same boat.

I’ve not even been to Wembley to watch a Cup Final, only wanting to go to watch Leeds. I’ve seen them play there in the Charity Shield against Liverpool, and I’ve experienced Wembley old and new through attending the first FA Vase final (my home town team Epsom & Ewell were in it – lost), the FA Trophy final with Southport (a former home town team – lost), and watching several England Internationals.

I’ve even seen an American Football match and Madonna there.

Of course, I’ve seen all the finals over the past 40 years on TV, and watched with dismay as, what was once the crowning glory to the end of the domestic season, become ever diminished by a combination of TV scheduling, Premier League dominance and Champions League finals. Or money in other words.

In the late 90s I moved to South Oxfordshire, not an area known for being a hotbed of football, and I began to watch local games, opting to spread my attendance across many teams within the County and in the surrounding area rather than focusing on just one team.

The early stages of the FA Cup were the perfect platform to get to experience as many clubs as possible.

And through attending these matches, I saw a side to football that wasn’t evident in what was being served up on TV, a difference that would become more and more pronounced in line with the increasing financial support for the game at the top level.

This was football by the people, for the people.

Those that played the game knew those that watched the game. Those that invested in the game did so because the club, and the town it represented, meant something to them. There was a community feel, people were giving their precious time for the club, and everyone was ‘in it together’. A far cry from the ivory tower of the Premier League.

So I wanted to know more about those clubs that took part in the early stages of the FA Cup, hundreds and hundreds of clubs in the competition that the media ignore and the general football watching public are oblivious about.

I discovered Tony Brown’s excellent Complete FA Cup book, The Football Club History Database on the internet, and Mike Collett’s FA Cup Complete Records book, and I decided (being the completist that I am and because it didn’t exist), that I wanted to collate every possible result to determine every club’s record, no matter how insignificant.

It’s not possible to get that deep into anything without it becoming etched on your heart. I already had a passion for football stats at the top level, and now I had transferred that passion for the records of thousands of clubs, current and past, and in particular how they have performed in the FA Cup.

And now I have completed my task (although it needs updating every season). I have a record of over 3,500 clubs’ FA Cup performances, and because of my inherent penchant for statistical analysis I have been able to produce unique new insights into those performances, which I now share via Twitter (@FACupFactfile), sometimes facts that only one person would be interested in, other times surprising facts that a wider audience wants to know about.

I love finding new nuggets of information, I love sharing that information with those with a similar passion for the competition and I love watching clubs in those early round matches and seeing their delight at progressing to the next round.

I now get more pleasure in following these clubs’ exploits than in Leeds United’s own performance (although I’d still love to see them in a FA Cup final at Wembley).

In short, I just love the FA Cup!