In the days leading up to our fourth qualifying game against Guiseley many fans were speculating that we might field a slightly less experienced side, an idea firmly put to bed by Danny Cowley. It’s the greatest club competition in the world was his message, and we’re going out to progress as far as we can.
Now we’re in the first round proper and we have a really viable opportunity to progress one stage further. How important could a good cup run be in the context of a promotion chasing season? My own personal thoughts are ‘incredibly important’.
Some say that a cup run only highlights how good some of our players are, and whilst that is partly true I think any League Two and League One side worth their salt will already be aware of the likes of Woodyard and Raggett. A cup run might help stick a zero on the end of any potential fee, but these boys will be well known to prospective buyers already, and a televised second round match wouldn’t be the sole reason they move on. If they’re going to move (and I think it’s highly likely at least one will in January) then I’d rather as many people as possible knew about them to spar a small bidding frenzy.
In truth despite our current financial stability I think any cup run will be a real boost to the club in economical terms. It’s no secret Danny would like to splash out on Sim Akinola or Ricky Miller, but whilst we have a decent enough budget we don’t have a rich vegan pouring money into us in order to satisfy his own personal goals. We are fast becoming a well managed business with a strong persona in the local community, but a cup run might give us some spending power as well.
Lets hypothesise and say we beat Altrincham, there’s a second round to negotiate. I wouldn’t be worried about drawing seventy per cent of League Two clubs at Sincil Bank, and I’m sure that they would fear a trip to a high flying National League side such as ourselves. There’s no reason we should fear the second round unless fate gives us a trip somewhere like Carlisle. If it does, it does. That’s the so-called magic of the cup. It builds dreams up and shatters them too.
So let’s assume we progress to the third round, little old Lincoln City might just be a draw for the TV Cameras. I remember the Cambridge and Man Utd games as I was living down there at the time, that cup tie set the whole of the city alight. Money poured in from all angles and the club got a massive boost in all aspects of their business. Win, lose or draw a big third round tie can influence a club’s season.
I remember our last cup run in 2009/10. I remember fondly the trip to Telford in which Sergio Torres played his last game for the club. I remember the televised trip to Northwich where a resurgent Scott Kerr created all three goals in our fine win. I remember a completely new-look Imps going down 4-0 to Bolton as well with players like Brian Gilmour and Michael Uwezo favoured over players like Jamie Clarke who had fired us to that stage. However those memories are still fond memories, they gloss over the cracks that the 2009/10 season began to highlight. The truth is we were awful that whole season and three cup games didn’t change that, but they did make it easier to deal with for a short time.
So what could a cup run bring in conjunction with a so-far successful league season? More bums on seats almost certainly, a few more of those floating fans might find their way down to Sincil Bank. If we get through the second round the financial rewards would be more than worth it, and I’m sure (unlike 2010) that the board would be only too happy for DC and NC to spend whatever they raise. Ricky Miller might yet be in our price range! I think the board have faith that our managers won’t spend silly money on journeymen and players out to grab cash. With that trust they’re much more likely to pass the proceeds on to the managers.
So what is the likelihood of progression on Saturday? I’d say it’s incredibly favourable, more so than the 4th qualifying tie with Guiseley. Altrincham had to negotiate a tie with Matlock Town who are a tier below them, but their league form has been really poor. They’re currently second from bottom of the National League North and were thumped 3-0 on Saturday by Worcester City. They’re ripe for the taking, and if we apply ourselves as we have done in recent matches I can see only one outcome: a big win for City. Damian Reeves is one of their man threats, but I’m told for a spell on Saturday Worcester were able to knock the ball around as much as they lied, and if they let The Imps do that there’s only going to be one outcome.
I’m also told they struggled to contain Lee Hughes. Love him or loathe him (I’m the latter) he is a big lump of a striker with an eye for goal. Sound like anyone we know? I’d wager Matt Rhead is fitter and will be even more of a threat, so it could be a really long afternoon for Alty. We need revenge for November 1988 anyway.
After that, who knows? The luck of the draw will dictate how big the task for a third round appearance might be. There’s no doubt at second round stage we probably won’t be a draw for the TV cameras unless someone like Taunton Town beat Barrow and then we draw them. However come round three if we’re still in the mix then there’s every chance we could get that season changing draw, and the riches that are associated with such a tie. Liverpool at home would do me just fine, and it might just put enough pound coins in the bank to give us a real chance of landing Mr Miller from Dover.