Guide Hednesford to Middlesbrough: An FA Cup Journey.

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Gareth hoped for a day out in Lancashire or Merseyside…. Not quite, Gareth. I think we initially felt we had missed out. The initial Saturday game was postponed, so by the time we faced York City under the floodlights at Keys Park, we already knew a tie with a Premier League side was the prize! Despite York arriving with something of a reputation as giant killers themselves, with Keys Park packed to the rafters, it seemed the tie was only destined to go one way.

Keith Russell rattling in the penalty and the moments at the final whistle will never be forgotten. For one to make Round Four is a remarkable achievement. For all of their endeavours, they now had a tie with Middlesbrough to contend with.

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With the likes of Juninho, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson in their line-up, it was expected to be no more than a day out for the plucky minnows — until they took the lead in the 13th minute. I think we must have taken about thirty coach loads of supporters; we seemed to fill one of the ends behind the goal. The ground seemed to fall silent for a moment and then suddenly erupted — it was a really special moment! There must have been some element of disappointment having taken the lead, but I think that the pride of having given such a scare to a squad boasting some of the best players in the world at the time speaks for itself.

The FA Cup can be a great leveller — Hednesford were not the first non-league team to upset the apple cart and they were not the last, either. The —94 season saw the club reach a cup final for the third year running. The —95 season saw the club crowned Premier Division champions with the team defeating Leek Town in front of supporters at The Cross Keys to clinch the title and promotion to the Football Conference.

In —96 the Pitmen commenced their first season in the Conference at their new Keys Park home and in the club's first season in the top flight of non-league football they finished in third place behind champions Stevenage Borough and Woking. The —97 season saw the Pitmen reach the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in 72 years, eventually losing in the fourth round to Middlesbrough , in front of 27, supporters. The following season saw the club finish in seventh position and further FA Cup success was enjoyed as, in front of millions of Match of the Day viewers, the Pitmen beat Hull City 2—0 at Boothferry Park but in the second round lost to Darlington.

In the —99 season the club reached the first round of the FA Cup for the third season running.

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This time the team beat Barnet 3—1 in the first round but lost by the same scoreline away at Cardiff City in the next round. League success did not follow the fine cup runs and the — season saw the team drop to 17th position then, after John Baldwin had stepped down during December , the club were relegated for the first time in their history.

Despite winning a major piece of silverware, Manager Barry Powell was sacked after a poor league showing ended with them failing to qualify for the newly created Conference North and Powell was replaced by fans favourite Chris Brindley.

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In his first season in management, Brindley took Hednesford to the playoffs and after beating Merthyr Tydfil on penalties in the semi, and Chippenham Town in the final 1—0, Hednesford were promoted to the Conference North. The —06 season saw the Pitmen again reach the first round of the FA Cup but the team were defeated 4—0 away at Histon. The team continued to leak goals and, as a result of a number of poor results and the team sinking to the bottom end of the Conference North , Chris Brindley left the club by mutual consent in early December They were subsequently placed in the Northern Premier League , their first foray into Northern League football.

Former Nottingham Forest player, Phil Starbuck, was appointed manager in July and despite challenging near the top of the table for the majority of —07 season, a slump in form after Christmas saw the team eventually finish in 7th position. The —08 season saw the Pitmen start well, but a run of inconsistent form saw them finish outside the play-off places again, finishing eighth. There was a strong possibility of Hednesford moving back to the Southern League Premier Division for the —09 season, but Halifax Town 's financial problems saw a number of non-league sides revived, leaving the Pitmen with the prospect of Northern Premier League football for the forthcoming campaign.

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On 21 May , the club confirmed that they had parted company with manager Phil Starbuck and that former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Exeter City and Torquay United player Dean Edwards , had been appointed as Starbuck's successor working alongside Stephen Price, the club's chairman. After a busy first few days, Edwards brought in a succession of new players, and also named his former Torquay team-mate Matt Elliott as the club's new assistant manager. A great start to the —09 season saw the Pitmen hit top spot in the league, playing neat, attractive football.

A young, locally based side enjoyed the status as favourites for the title, with a 7—2 win over Worksop Town on Boxing Day the high point.

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Since the turn of the year, Hednesford's form dipped, although they enjoyed a good run in the FA Trophy. A topsy-turvy final month of the campaign saw the Pitmen remain in contention for a play-off place, relying on a fine run of wins away from home to conteract a dismal run of form at Keys Park , which saw poor defeats to relegation-haunted Whitby Town , Boston United and Leigh Genesis in sequence. However, Kendal Town snatched the final play-off spot, leaving Hednesford with a fourth successive season at step three. News arrived at Hednesford on 29 May that the Pitmen had been moved by the FA to their former stamping ground, the Southern League Premier Division , for the —10 season, after a number of clubs were 'shunted' around the leagues to allow for re-structuring.

On 15 September Edwards was relieved of his managerial duties following a disappointing start to the season, culminating in a 4—1 home defeat to Pegasus Juniors of the Hellenic League Premier Division , 2 divisions below the Pitmen. The club released a statement on Thursday 8 October that Simon Line, previously of Market Drayton Town , had accepted the manager's job at Keys Park, with Delwyn Humphreys as his assistant manager and Paul Mellings coming in as goalkeeping coach.

The club announced on Thursday 14 January that Simon Line had resigned from his managerial position at the club, citing personal reasons. His replacement, former Hednesford player, Bernard McNally was appointed as the new manager on Monday 25 January with Delwyn Humphreys remaining as his assistant.

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Under McNally's management the club finished the end of the —10 season in 4th place in the Southern League Premier Division. By finishing 4th the club qualified for the play-offs but, after a hectic end of season schedule due to postponed games throughout the winter months, ended up losing 2—0 away to Chippenham Town in the semi-finals. In May , it was announced that Delwyn Humphreys had left his position as assistant manager and replaced by goalkeeper Stuart Brock.

The middle of saw a complete change in the playing department with both of the lethal strikeforce that turned the previous season moving on to higher levels. After a mixed start to the —11 season that found the Pitmen again having much greater away form than at home, on Sunday 19 September the club announced it had "parted company" with manager Bernard McNally and a successor was being sought. That replacement would turn out to be Rob Smith and he was announced as manager of the club on Monday 27 September with Larry Chambers as his assistant, the duo having previously earned league promotion success with AFC Telford United.

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And not enough, or the existing owner would not have entered into negotiations with a vague collective of keyboard wizards, but that does not make these clubs any less vital to those who care for them. Hednesford, who were the subject of OWNA FC's affections until a sudden curtailment of negotiations on Wednesday, were founded in , meaning they pre-date Manchester United, who were Newton Heath until Hednesford first played in a local Birmingham league with clubs including Coventry City, Shrewsbury Town and Bristol Rovers, faced up to the reserve teams of Football League founders Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion and more than a century later were still viable, coming third in the Conference Premier in But there has been a decline.

Hednesford are now a Northern Premier League team and no longer attract crowds of more than 1, These days, it is nearer Even so, that's still that are not playing at it, or passing through.

Hednesford to Middlesbrough: An FA Cup Journey.

Understandably so. Harvey has a record of takeover deals for sporting institutions that fail to come off - such as his move for Whitehaven rugby league club last year - and even if he claims to have learned from the failure of MyFootballClub at Ebbsfleet, the model is fatally flawed. Yes, of course it is - but it's also the fun. The moment MyFootballClub as good as died was when its members made the most sensible decision of their brief incumbency - and voted to leave match-day decisions to the Ebbsfleet United manager, Liam Daish.

A small business, as dull as any other, that is also fiendishly difficult to make successful. Ever played the game Zoo Tycoon? It sounds such a laugh being in charge of lions and tigers and polar bears, but you spend most of your time trying to get a concession stand to turn a profit and repairing fences. In the sales pitch, as well as promising that subscribers will 'make signings… negotiate contracts… hire and fire staff', OWNA FC also pledges 'select the suppliers… set admission prices… manage your staff'. That sounds like a job; a routine, normal job. This is Hednesford Town or equivalent, remember. Your staff isn't going to be Jose Mourinho. It's the bloke who runs the bar at the social club, part-time; it's the catering contractor. And how much leeway for brilliant entrepreneurial spirit is there in setting admission prices in conjunction with 3, others? There will be a price at which the place goes skint, a price at which no one turns up, and Hednesford will be charging somewhere in the middle already. What are you going to do, Roman Abramovich, alter that by 25p? And let's say you are a visionary, with bold, brilliant concepts capable of transforming non-League football for ever.

Do your 3, fellow members share, or understand, your ideas? The best could go the way of the firm that bakes the pies. It all sounds very sensible - which is precisely why the members of MyFootballClub lost interest. At its peak, MyFootballClub had eight times as many subscriptions as OWNA FC has now, but by the time Ebbsfleet was sold on the cheap as oblivion loomed in , that number had dwindled to little more than a thousand.

What went wrong? Reality bit.