The wait is nearly over…
In just a few days Chichester City will find out who their opponents in the second round of the FA Cup will be.
While every other club will be battling it out this weekend to make it into Monday night’s draw, the Isthmian South East side escaped the process as they were given a bye after being drawn against the now out-of-business Bury.
It means the current squad, who are competing at the eighth tier of the football pyramid for the first time, will go down in club history.
Before then, they have the small matter of a league match at third-place Sevenoaks Town tomorrow (3pm).
Chi, who are unbeaten away from home in the league, will do so with fresh legs after both matches in the last week were postponed due to the weather.
Then it is on to the Velocity Trophy and a trip to Sussex rivals Burgess Hill Town on Tuesday (7.30pm).
But for many Chi fans all they can think about is the FA Cup.
For some, it is bringing back memories of the 1960/61 season when City made it to the first round proper of the competition before being beaten 11-0 by Bristol City.
Two of the players who appeared in the Chichester line- up that day – Fred Knotts and Nigel Hillier – still have extremely fond memories of the match, despite being on the receiving end of a hammering.
Knotts said: “Seeing over 12,000 in the stadium was incredible. Lots of supporters went to the game from this area and it was very different for us from playing in front of crowds of a few hundred.
“It was a tough match of course but a great occasion, and we picked ourselves up and went on to win the county league that season, as we had done the year before.”
Hillier said: “In a short space of time it became obvious we were going to get a good hiding.
“We all went with the same thought that we were going to give it a good go, but we didn’t really get enough of the ball to be honest.
“I don’t think anybody ever realised how much of a difference there was in those days between pros and people playing amateur football.”
Knotts, who was a ball boy in the 1956 FA Cup final, where Manchester City beat Birmingham City, thanks in part to the heroics of goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who carried on playing despite breaking his neck, believes there’s a magic that people attach to the FA Cup.
He said: “The FA Cup is something quite special. Every youngster wanted to be in it when I was a kid. All I ever wanted to do was play football. I just wanted to get out and kick a football about.”
Knotts had to hang his boots up a couple of seasons after getting to play in that first round match in 1960 because of knee trouble.
Hillier went into management, with spells at Chichester and Selsey.
But both have kept an eye on the fortunes of Chichester City over the years.
Hillier said: “I’ve been to watch Chi this season and I like the way they play. They seem to have a very good spirit. They’ve played very, very well to get this far. Just enjoy it for all it’s worth because it doesn’t happen very often.”
Knotts watched this year’s FA Cup first round draw live on television, adding: “We were thinking that ball’s not going to be the last one left is it? We couldn’t believe it.”
The 11-0 scoreline against Bristol City still smarts but Knotts said: “It’s an achievement though isn’t it, to get to the first round of the FA Cup?
“I still see some of them now. It might be at funerals and celebrations. We’ve had a few reunions over the years.
“We’ll have to get those that are still with us all together for this next round I think.”