(Photo: FA / Eddie Keogh)
By Matt Badcock
FRAMLINGHAM TOWN make their FA Cup debut on Saturday – and boss Mel Aldis says it’s the talk of the town.
The Emirates FA Cup trophy visited Suffolk on Wednesday to mark the Castlemen’s first ever appearance in the competition in their 130-year history.
Fellow debutants Wadham Lodge visit the Eastern Counties League side on Saturday as the world’s greatest domestic competition kicks-off with the extra preliminary round.
There are 185 ties and 737 clubs competing for £1,500 prize money if they win and progress to the next stage.
Framlingham and Essex Senior League side Wadham Lodge are two of 21 teams playing FA Cup football for the first time.
Boss Aldis, who played for the club and is in his second spell as manager, says it has caught the community’s imagination.
“Three years ago we were playing in junior football,” he said. “Personally I’ve been around a bit so I’ve played in the Cup games but we’ve only got two players in the whole squad who have ever played in the FA Cup.
“There’s nervous excitement. If you go into the town, everybody is talking about the FA Cup. There’s a real buzz around the town. It’s an iconic competition.
“We don’t know much about Wadham Lodge. They obviously play a Step higher but, with home advantage, hopefully we can do it.
“But it’s more about enjoying the day – we’ll think about winning it in a few years’ time!”
Aldis, whose two sons play for the club, says Saturday will be special for everyone at the club – especially the hardworking volunteers.
“I’m more pleased for them than I am myself – the old boys who have been on the committee more than 50 years, some of them,” he said.
“They’ve worked hard to get us out of junior football and into this position. Then there’s the youngsters who are in the team, who started out as U8s.
“We’ll have our current U8s here on Saturday as ball boys and mascots. They can now see they’ve got the chance of playing Framlingham in the FA Cup.”
The FA’s Head of Player Status and Competitions David Newton says the governing body are hugely proud of the competition and how it helps clubs throughout the National League System.
He said: “It’s a really big weekend. We’ve got 185 ties with clubs playing for a place in the preliminary round and £1,500.
“While the FA Cup is a hugely prestigious competition to play in, we’re well aware the prize money is very valuable to clubs at all levels of the game to reinvest back into the clubs.
“At this level of the game, clubs are run by volunteers. A little bit extra money from a cup run can make a real difference to all aspects of what they do.
“For the whole qualifying competition, the prize money totals around £2million. It’s indicative that this competition isn’t just for the top clubs but it goes all the way through the National League structure. It’s a really important aspect of the FA Cup that the money is redistributed right throughout the game.
“But it’s certainly not just about the money. It’s about local clubs competing in the world’s biggest football cup competition. It goes to show with the number of people here at Framlingham today how local communities engage with it.”