Ken Gaunt, former football reporter for the Press Association, tells us about Glossop North End's rich history and their latest quest to win the FA Vase at Wembley...
So AFC Bournemouth are the smallest town in England to host a top flight team? Try telling that to another title-winning side Glossop North End. The Hillman graced the First Division in the 1899-90 season when they faced the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle.
Not only that they pulled in a crowd of 10,736 at their North Street ground in 1914 for an FA Cup tie against Preston North End. North Street remains but as home to Glossop Cricket Club. North End moved on to Surrey Street, where they still play and dream of adding a new chapter to their rich history on Saturday.
The North West Counties League champions and Cup winners are aiming to win the FA Vase for the first time after losing to Whitley Bay in 2009. Standing in their way at Wembley are another proud club, 1969 Amateur Cup winners North Shields of the Ebac Northern League.
A crowd of around 10,000 is expected at the national stadium with the majority of supporters coming from the north east. Glossop, average gate around 300, will be backed by around 3,500 fans. However they had 5,000 supporters six years ago. Some have struggled to come to grips with the FA’s new policy, which means the majority of tickets have to be bought online.
The governing body explained: “It helps out clubs who have limited resources and infrastructure in distributing vast numbers. We gave both clubs 500 tickets to sell locally so not all exclusively online.”
Glossop fans have had some fun this season, watching their freescoring side chalk up 100 league goals and 102 points under the stewardship of highly rated manager Chris Willcock. Peter Hammond, secretary for the past 30 years, believes it is their time. “This is the best team I have seen here “ he says. Glossop will again have a little help from Arsenal just as they did in 2009 by using the facilities of their plush London Colney training complex.
The unlikely connection between the two clubs, big and small, stretches back down the ages to when Samuel Hill-Wood was the Derbyshire club’s chairman in their Football League years.
When he moved to London, he became Arsenal’s chairman and the baton was passed on to his son Denis and then his son Peter, who stepped down in 2013. “It is a wonderful gesture to let us use their facilities, “ says Peter Hammond. “The last time we were heading for Wembley I got a lovely letter from their chairman."
There are a couple of subplots around the game. North Shields manager Graham Fenton makes an emotional return to Wembley after helping Aston Villa lift the League Cup in 1994. Then there is Glossop’s Sam Grimshaw who will be looking to showcase his skills as his trial with Manchester United has been extended into preseason.
Given the passion and effort that will be on show on and off the pitch, the occassion deserves a bigger audience. Word has it the FA Trophy and FA Vase finals will be played on the same day from next season to try to boost crowd numbers.
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