Chris Swailes came to epitomise Morpeth Town’s fairytale run to lift The Buildbase FA Vase at Wembley Stadium in May and now he is hoping he can catalyse another charge – this time in The Emirates FA Cup.
The 45-year-old – who has come back from three heart operations to continue his non-League career – is preparing for this weekend’s third round qualifying clash with Altrincham with history on his mind.
Never before have the Highwaymen made the first round of The FA Cup but after their Vase victory last season, confidence is high.
Altrincham v Morpeth Town
The Emirates FA Cup
Third Round Qualifying
3pm, Saturday 1 October 2016
Moss Lane, Altrincham
Winners receive £7500
Click here for fixtures
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
And they will need to be at their best against an Altrincham side famous for their Cup runs – the Robins have beaten Football League opponents on 17 separate occasions, more than any other non-League side.
Swailes – who became the oldest man to score in a final at the new Wembley in May as Morpeth lifted The Vase – and his team-mates have a taste for the big time however.
"It seems to help us playing against tougher opposition – as a squad we perfect that and lift our level," he said.
"We have beaten Colwyn Bay and Blyth Spartans who are two leagues above, we get up for those big games.
"I don’t know why that is, we should be focused all the time and go out and play our normal game.
"But for these games there is no pressure and we like a bit of a crowd – the more the merrier.
"Altrincham should beat us, they are three leagues above.
"But it would be brilliant to get to the first round and we will give it our best shot.
"This is a fantastic competition with drama aplenty and it also brings in a nice bit of revenue for the club as well and that is always a big help."
And after his heroic turn last season – did Swailes ever consider retiring on top?
"I had a couple of weeks after The Final to think about it – when you are successful you get greedy and I knew I wanted to return – the legs feel OK and I don’t want to be stuck in the house on a Saturday afternoon!" he added.
"The first two weeks after The Final was crackers – I had a week off on holiday and I was getting recognised in different places but it has all settled down now.
"Not that we have forgotten – we are The Vase holders and that will get underway in November, but now it is about The FA Cup.
"Being the underdog – like we were at Wembley – brings out the best."
Emirates FA Cup history
Morpeth have never made the first round of The FA Cup, but they will be one step away if they can beat Altrincham. The last time they got to fourth round qualifying was back in the 1998-99 season. Altrincham have fine pedigree in The FA Cup and made it to the fourth round in the 1985-86 season.
Did you know?
Altrincham have a history of giant-killing, they hold the record of knocking out more Football League sides (17) than any other club that has spent its entire history playing non-League football.
One to watch
It’s hard to look past the ‘bionic man’ Chris Swailes. Still going strong at 45 and after three heart operations – the defender has a fine history in this competition.
He was part of the Rotherham United side that upset Premier League Southampton in the third round in 2002.
The victors of this tie will bag £7,500 for progressing through to fourth round qualifying, one tie away from a place in the first round draw.