In the week leading up to the first qualifying round of the FA Cup, we are publising a number of articles on Midland Football League or Midland Alliance teams past and present who are still involved in the competition this year.
On Saturday Tividale face Spalding United of the Northern Premier League Midlands league in the first qualifying round. But Tividale are no strangers to attention when it comes to the FA Cup, as we see below.
IN 1976, Bran James, a Daily Mail sports journalist wrote his seminal book, 'Journey to Wembley, a football odyssey from Tividale to Wembley.'
In it he followed the road to Wembley, starting with the all West Midlands Premier League preliminary round tie between Hinckley Athletic and Tividale, then the first qualifying round victory for Tividale over Oldbury.
But it was the second qualifying round tie between Tividale and Telford United of the Southern League Premier, that seemed to capture the imagination and indeed some national newspaper coverage, plus provided a great chapter for the book.
Telford were managed by World Cup winning hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst, now Sir Geoff and curiosity was high as to whether any of the Wembley heroes could make their mark in the management game.
James followed up on this, indeed any quirky titbits or stories which would capture the magic of the competition, this year celebrating its 150th anniversary, were included.
He described where Tividale was to otherwise un-initiated readers, saying: "The ground is half way up a hill. On three sides it is bounded by new homes, on the fourth it opens up into a panoramic view of the Midlands industrial sprawl."
Hurst, who was trying to make his way up the football management ladder, was acutely aware of having to have some security such as a good day job or business behind him in the days when footballers didn't make vast amounts, whether from sponsorship deals or wages.
This was shown on his assessment of the pre-match meal where James wrote: 'Hurst thought It was a smashing meal, but made a mental note about the serving of the dessert pancakes and said: "I take my pubs seriously, they are my insurance against turning out to be the world's worst football manager.
"I love the game still, want to make some sort of mark in it, but with a good business behind me, I don't need to be scared."
On the day, he certainly didn't need to be scared as Telford comfortably won 3-0, though they would only reach the fourth qualifying round before being knocked out at home to Matlock.
After three seasons at Telford, Hurst would go on to be part of the England set up under Ron Greenwood and manage Chelsea and in Kuwait before indeed returning to a 'day job' in insurance.
The book, which ended with the FA Cup final at Wembley between Liverpool and Manchester United opened up a whole new world for many people, visiting clubs most people had never heard of in the days before the internet, twitter and Facebook.
For some readers it started their interest in non league football and for others inspired them to do the same journey, choosing their own starting point.
In 2019, Sportsmail replicated the premise of James' legendary book by starting again at Tividale, this time in the preliminary tie against Chasetown. Tividale - now in the Midland Football League Premier - had already beaten Wednesfield to get to this stage.
They interviewed manager Dave King - who will again be in the dugout for the game against Spalding on Saturday - and he didn't sugar-coat the financial situation of the club, or clubs like them saying: "This is a rarity, a chance to earn some money and maybe play in front of a bigger crowd where on the cold winter nights there will be next to no money coming in and there will be just a group of diehards and a dog."
Reporter Ian Herbert wrote: "The £2,900 prize money on offer for progressing past Chasetown, who play one tier higher, to reach the FA Cup's first qualifying round is around half the home team's entire annual running costs.
"There are no transfer fees and no match fees for players here, just 40p-a-mile petrol expenses for away trips which the home team must also pay out to the referee - 22-year-old Niall Smith - and his assistants.
"It's hard to find an abundance of sympathy for clubs like Bury and Bolton Wanderers here (both being in financial trouble at the time), in the middle of a rather anonymous Black Country housing estate.
"It's a world of subsistence, enterprise and survival, where man of the match voting slips sell for £1, Tividale pin badges for £3 and where the 'No Standing' signs in the primitive covered area are hardly necessary."
There is also a focus of course on Chasetown, now in the Northern Premier League but who first reached the first round proper of the FA Cup in 2005-06, the season they won the old Midland Alliance which became the Midland Football League.
Their televised first round tie against Oldham would bring in £84,000 and both the cup run and promotion helped the club build a bigger profile, a bigger fan base and financial security.
Two years later of course they would hit the headlines, and again make some serious money, when reaching the third round against Cardiff City, where the Chasetown players would get used to being featured in the national media, such is the magic of the competition.
As Chasetown chairman Mick Joiner and now president of the MFL was quoted as saying at Tividale, where his side would go on to win 5-0: "Hold what you've got. Improve what you can. Go to where you can be self-sustaining, that's us."
But on Saturday, Tividale, whilst focussing on the prize money on offer for beating Spalding, may just dare to dream of what could be were they to go on and reach the first round of what - to many - is still the greatest cup competition in the world.
Below-The front cover of Brian James' book, action from Tividale v Telford in 1976 and (L-R) The Beeches, home of Tividale FC and Sir Geoff Hurst.
Thank you to Neil Fredrick Jensen, of gameofthepeople.com for infomation used in this article.
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