FA Cup first round: The Heybridge Swifts striker who faced Alvaro Morata

By Neil JohnstonBBC Sport
Heybridge Swifts celebrate scoring
Heybridge Swifts - average league gate 220 - have sold nearly 300 tickets for Sunday's 500-mile round trip to Exeter

Seven years ago, Joan Luque was sharing a pitch with Alvaro Morata.

This summer, as Morata completed his club record £60m move from Real Madrid to Chelsea, fellow Spaniard Luque was also starting a new life in England - with part-time Heybridge Swifts, in the eighth tier of English football.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old former Barcelona academy player will attempt to make headlines of his own when the lowest-ranked club left in the FA Cup look to cause a shock at League Two Exeter City's expense (14:00 GMT).

"My dream is to play professional football in England or Spain," Luque, scorer of 14 goals for Essex club Swifts, told BBC Sport.

"I've come to England to see if I can achieve that."

Luque earned a deal with Isthmian League North Division Heybridge after impressing at a camp set up to give players from overseas a taste of the English game.

The 'England The Chance' initiative, set up by Swifts defender Guillem Ramon, saw 21 players from Spain, Andorra and Argentina spend a week at Heybridge in July.

Luque's technical ability stood out - and Heybridge boss Jody Brown signed him up.

Swifts' cup run has included seven matches, with a 95th-minute equaliser against Metropolitan Police in the second qualifying round and a penalty shootout win, plus £29,425 in prize money.

This is their first appearance in the first round for 15 years and they head to Exeter on the back of one defeat in 30 games.

Luque, who works as a waiter in a Chelmsford restaurant, has scored six of his side's 23 goals in FA Cup qualifying.

His CV includes a two-year spell at Barcelona's academy between the ages of 11 and 13.

While Marc Muniesa, a friend from his early days with the Spanish league giants, has gone on to appear in defence for Barcelona, Stoke City and Girona, Luque's career has struggled to take off.

He played in the youth version of the 2010 Copa del Rey for Cornella and helped the Catalonia club reach the quarter-finals before losing to a Real Madrid side featuring Morata and Dani Carvajal.

Having played semi-professional football in Ibiza and Majorca, Luque is one of three Spaniards in the Swifts squad, with Ramon and midfielder Elias Siligato.

"Hopefully we can help attract some new Spanish followers," added Luque.

FA Cup first round
Players at sixth-tier AFC Telford have agreed to pay £500 towards the fans' coach for the tie at seventh-tier Hereford, who are set to break their attendance record of 4,683.National League South Truro City will wear special shirts for Sunday's tie at Charlton Athletic which feature details of the match and a poppy on the front.
Solihull Moors and Wycombe Wanderers have arranged a free shuttle coach service to carry fans of both clubs between Solihull town centre and the Moors' home ground for Sunday's tie.Winning teams at this stage will receive £18,000 each. Teams who make it through will be six wins from the final, at Wembley on 19 May 2018.

'We will never forget Dan'

When the players of Shaw Lane walk out against League Two Mansfield on Saturday (12:30 GMT), Daniel Wilkinson will be very much in their thoughts.

Fourteen months after the 24-year-old defender collapsed and died playing for the Barnsley-based non-league club in a cup tie against Brighouse Town, his memory lives on.

"It was a living nightmare," said Shaw Lane club secretary Dave Exley. "It could have finished the club or it could have driven us on to where we are now."

While Brighouse's next game was postponed, Daniel's family made it clear that Shaw Lane's following match had to go ahead.

It was later found he had arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), the same heart condition that forced former Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba to retire in 2012.

Shaw Lane named a stand in Daniel's memory and retired his number five shirt for the rest of the season.

The Dan Wilkinson Stand at Shaw Lane's former ground before they moved to Sheerien Park in the summer. The club is awaiting planning permission to put the stand up at their current base
The Dan Wilkinson Stand at Shaw Lane's former ground before they moved to Sheerien Park in the summer. The club is awaiting planning permission to put the stand up at their current base

Daniel's parents, Gill and Barry, and sister, Helen, will be in the 2,000 crowd for Mansfield's visit, the biggest match in the short history of Shaw Lane, whose average league gate is 203.

The non-league side, who are based three miles from Barnsley's Oakwell ground, have enjoyed five quick promotions to reach the seventh-tier Northern Premier League Premier Division, where they sit second in the table, three points behind leaders Altrincham with two matches in hand.

Craig Elliott's team includes midfielder David Norris, who has played in the Championship for Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle.

Defender Neil Austin, 34, played for Barnsley in the Championship.

The Press Box at Shaw Lane
The press box at Sheerien Park, the ground Shaw Lane share with Athersley Recreation

"We hadn't even won an FA Cup tie before this season. It's a fantastic achievement to get to the first round," said Norris, who scored in the first qualifying round win against Radcliffe Borough.

Norris, who helped Plymouth reach the quarter-finals in 2006-07, managed to get his hands on the famous trophy earlier this week when it visited Yorkshire to promote Shaw Lane's tie.

"It was the closest I have ever come to it," he added. "It's a great competition and I've had mixed experiences. We had a good run at Plymouth but I also remember losing 7-0 at Chelsea when I was at Ipswich.

"There has been great excitement at Shaw Lane since we reached the first round. It means so much to the players, the fans and the people who help keep the club going."

David Norris (centre) played and scored in the Champinship for Played in the Championship for Leeds, Portsmouth, Ipswich and Plymouth
Shaw Lane's David Norris (centre) played and scored in the Championship for Leeds, Portsmouth, Ipswich and Plymouth

Veteran Jones seeks one last shock

Some Nantwich Town players had not been born when former Burnley, Crewe and Northern Ireland forward Steve Jones was carving out a name for himself in the game.

Having just turned 41, Jones is finishing his prolonged playing career with the Cheshire non-leaguers - the 18th club of his career.

Nantwich's team includes several teenagers but Jones hopes his experience will prove invaluable when the seventh-tier Northern Premier League Premier Division side - nicknamed the Dabbers - go to League Two Stevenage on Saturday (15:00 GMT).

Steve Jones in his Burnley days
Steve Jones (left) spent the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons playing in the Championship for Burnley

"I'll probably be coming on as a substitute at some point in the game," said Jones.

"I was always told when I was starting out that once it's gone, it's gone. Every minute I'm on the pitch means more and more to me.

"I've always looked after myself and I'm still one of the quickest at the club."

Will Jaaskelainen
Nantwich Town goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen

One of Nantwich's young players is goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen, the 19-year-old son of former Bolton, West Ham and Finland keeper Jussi.

While his dad is still playing at the age of 42 in the Indian Super League for Teddy Sheringham's ATK, Will is on loan at Nantwich from Crewe Alexandra.

The teenager saved a penalty in the last round against Kettering as Dave Cooke's side reached the first round for only the second time in the club's history.

"Will kept us in the tie - he'll definitely make it in the game," added Jones.

When is the FA Cup second-round draw?

The FA Cup draw is on BBC Two on Monday 6 November from 1900 GMT

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