The Blog

From the Top to the Bottom of Non-League, It Is Their Time to Shine

"It's been a long time. I've been watching you. But at last, here we are".

To slightly misquote Christoph Waltz from the mediocre new Bond flick Spectre, we have what I would say to the FA Cup. If I met it, or if it were an animate object.

Yes, after two preliminary qualifying round, four qualifying rounds, 644 entrants, 612 of whom have already been eliminated, countless goals, the FA Cup First Round proper arrived.

Boy wasn't that exciting? It sure was, um, yeah...

I write these blogs, due to work commitments, on a Saturday morning. They are not published until the Monday. Therefore by the time you read this, the games will have happened, but I type my thoughts as we stand n the precipice of the fourth most exciting day of the domestic calendar - after the FA Cup Third Round, opening day, and final day.

So, that scuppers my plans to write about where the upsets may or may not occur. Instead, I'm going to talk about some of the more interesting stories circulating around the clubs that played in Round One, so whether they win, lose or draw, hopefully they might gain a new fan somewhere, perhaps even earn a precious few pennies extra in gate fees. It all makes a difference.

Having talked about the more obscure names in non-league football for some time, I feel I should mention someone on the basis of how good they are. I didn't do a Quarter Season Prediction for the National League, but if I had, Forest Green Rovers would have featured heavily in the promotion prediction.

Top of the league, the longest serving members of the fifth tier across all its guises, Forest Green have the admirable distinction of being successful despite being in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

The club has a 5,032 seater stadium, despite being based on top of a hill in a field in the hamlet of Forest Green. The nearest town in Nailsworth, with a population of 6,600. But they could make the football league soon.

They also have a carbon neutral stadium, and red meat is banned from the stadium and from the players' diets. A truly unique club, they played AFC Wimbledon at the weekend - and we all know their story.

From the top of non-league sides in Round One action, to the bottom, the lowest ranked. Didcot Town are currently 16th in the EvoStik League Southern Division One South & West. They have won four league games all season. They had to win five games in the FA Cup to get to this stage, but that is exactly what they have done.

Having begun their journey in Preliminary Qualifying, they drew League Two Exeter City, earning huge dosh through gate receipts and TV rights. All I hope is, writing at a time where I do not know what they have achieved, is that they do themselves and non-league football proud.

Not unlike what Salford City did on Friday night against Notts County. If that doesn't inspire the underdogs this weekend, nothing will.