Stourbridge FC: The FA Cup's non-league side of the 21st century in first round again

Stourbridge manager Ian Long celebrates the comeback from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay 3-2 against Whitby and book the Glassboys' latest first round adventure
Stourbridge manager Ian Long celebrates the comeback from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay 3-2 against Whitby and book the Glassboys' latest first-round adventure
FA Cup first round
Venue: War Memorial Ground, Amblecote Date: Saturday, 9 November Kick-off: 15:00 GMT Coverage: Live commentary and live text coverage on BBC Sport website

Little over a decade ago, Stourbridge had cause to be envious of most non-league clubs - in a century of trying, they had never made the first round proper in the FA Cup.

This Saturday, 10 years on, the Glassboys have in turn become the envy of non-league football.

Seventh-tier Stourbridge will host Eastleigh in the first round at the War Memorial Ground at Amblecote - the sixth time they have reached this stage in 10 years.

In that time, the West Midlands-based Southern League Premier Central club have reached the second round four times, the third round once, and beaten two Football League sides, Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town.

They might not yet have touched the heights of non-league FA Cup giantkilling greats like Yeovil, Hereford United, Telford or even neighbours Kidderminster Harriers.

But, since Gary Hackett's side lost to Walsall in 2009, that has been the only defeat they have suffered at the first round stage.

The long-serving Hackett has gone, succeeded by Ian Long from nearby Alvechurch this summer. But the new boss insists that the old cup magic remains just the same.

"The history this club has with the FA Cup is the culmination of what Gaz created here," Long told BBC WM. "The crowd goes up. And there's a special buzz about the place."

The Glassboys in the Cup

  • 2009: Stourbridge reach first round for first time. Troy Deeney engineers Steve Jones' winner for League One Walsall.
  • 2011: Beat Plymouth in a replay but go out in second round to League One Stevenage.
  • 2013: Reach second round once more, the lowest-ranked team to do so that season, again losing to Stevenage.
  • 2015: Second round again, but lose 2-0 at home to a fifth-tier side Eastleigh.
  • 2016: Reach third round for first time. Beat fellow non-leaguers Whitehawk, then Northampton before losing to a late winner at Wycombe.
  • 2019: First FA Cup first round under Ian Long, who took over following Gary Hackett's 16 years in charge.

'I thought we'd blown it' - Long

The fact that Stourbridge have reached the first round six times in 10 seasons is a record most fifth-tier sides, let alone seventh-tier ones, would be proud of.

It is also a chance to avenge one of the few blots on their record, their 2-0 second-round loss to Eastleigh in 2015.

That was back in the days when ex-Shrewsbury, Aberdeen, Stoke, West Brom, Peterborough and Chester winger Hackett was still in charge.

For Long, it is the first time both he and most of his squad have reached this stage. But he knows how close they were to not making it at all, when, in no time, they trailed Whitby 2-0 at home in last month's fourth qualifying round replay.

"I thought we'd blown it at 2-0 down against Whitby," said Long. "And they'd missed a penalty. But it showed the resilience we have. It wasn't the prettiest but it was all about the result."

Stourbridge made the third round for the first time on their last FA Cup run in 2016, receiving a standing ovation at Wycombe after losing only to a late Adebayo Akinfenwa winner
Stourbridge made the third round for the first time on their last FA Cup run in 2016, receiving a standing ovation at Wycombe after losing only to a late Adebayo Akinfenwa winner

As it was, Dave Bellis got one back before the break, then Stourbridge-born Alex Nicholls, who played against the Glassboys for Walsall in that sole first-round defeat in 2009, scrambled in a scruffy equaliser.

Then Kristian Green, one of the very few other survivors of their previous cup exploits, appropriately got the winner.

"It's not only myself and the coaching staff, for most of the players it's their first time too," said Long. "There's only Tom Tonks, Alex Nicholls and Kristian Green who have been this far. But it shouldn't be a surprise getting to this stage again.

"Some of the players aren't used to this expectation but returning to the more familiar role of underdogs will help. A lot of this current squad are used to being underdogs and having to fight for everything.

"But we've got good players here. They sometimes get nerves at home but they just need a bit more belief in themselves."

Stourbridge fans
The War Memorial Ground is again limited to a 2,500 capacity - but that is still five times as many as Stourbridge get for Southern League Premier Central games

Beyond Stourbridge

Stourbridge's FA Cup exploits have helped put a town renowned for its glass industry on the footballing map and put their players in the shop window.

And coming close to their 2,500 capacity limit on Saturday - with the prospect of £36,000 in winning prize money - will help with Stourbridge's finances.

But non-league clubs like the Glassboys still have to offload players to help pay the bills.

After their last FA Cup run in 2016, centre-half Dan Scarr, now at Walsall, was sold to Birmingham for a five-figure fee, while last term's top scorer Gregg Mills left to join Bromsgrove Sporting.

The next one to tempt the scouts is former West Brom academy winger Chay Tilt, nephew of Blackpool defender Curtis Tilt.

He was released by QPR this summer but is already a target for ambitious National League side Solihull Moors - and maybe higher too.

Stourbridge have had 12 previous ties in the FA Cup and Gary Hackett, who was manager for all of them, became used to the increased media presence
Stourbridge have had 12 previous ties in the main rounds of the FA Cup and Gary Hackett, who was manager for all of them, became used to the increased media presence

Stourbridge boss Ian Long was talking to BBC WM's Steve Hermon

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