Darlington boss Alun Armstrong headed to Walsall today hailing their FA Cup clash as the perfect opportunity to show the football world they are on their way back.
The National League North Quakers traveled to the Bescot Stadium full of confidence with their current form.
A 1-0 win against Kidderminster Harriers last week made it six wins on the bounce before they earned a valuable point in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Hereford and boss Armstrong believes there’s much more to come.
But when the first round rolled in today, he wanted his players to enjoy the chance to put the club in lights.
“This one is for the players,” Armstrong told last Sunday’s edition of the The Non-League Paper.
“The league is the bread and butter that’s what I look at, but I’ve said to them they can go as far as they want in the FA Cup – I’ve played the strongest team possible because the club needs the finances and although it’s a non-pressure game, it’s a huge opportunity for the club and ourselves to get Darlington on the map a little bit.
“Walsall will not want to play us. I wouldn’t. I’ve been there as a player myself where you’ve got the lower league teams coming up and you hate it because you’ve got to win no matter what.
“We’ll go there and give it our best shot. If we can manage to nick a win or a draw we will be delighted.”
Armstrong took over in the summer having taken Blyth Spartans into the play-offs last season. His squad has had to cope with long-term injuries to key players David Atkinson, Jamie Holmes and England C defender Luke Trotman, but there are hopes they can all return by the end of the season.
A big part of his arrival has been making sure the fans are truly connected to the club they own. They even allow the opportunity to travel with the team to some away games with the money raised going in to club coffers.
And Armstrong believes that rapport between players and fans will be vital going forward.
“I live not far from Darlington, I played for them twice,” Armstrong said. “I saw them go under and then come back under Martin Gray – Martin did a fantastic job getting them back up so quickly.
“But you do hit that point in this league where you see the full-time teams and if you’re not getting things right off the pitch you can’t financially compete.
“They’ve hit a stumbling block the last couple of years. I’ve said this year is a rebuild season and if we can get noticed in the FA Cup,that moves it on a bit quicker and shows Darlington is coming back.
“It takes time and you’ve got to be patient but one thing I will say is about the fans. They say they’re willing to keep putting money in and it’s unbelievable – £104,000 they raised for us at the start of the season, which is just ridiculous!”
The Quakers boss added: “We’ve had three overnight stays because the fans have paid for them. We put on that they can travel with the first team and stay in the hotel, so they’ve experienced that, seeing what the lads are doing, the preparation, have a meal with the lads. They’re willing to do that for their football club and that’s phenomenal when you think about it.”