Christmas comes early for United after cup heroics

CHRISTMAS has come early for Hastings United after the club reached the second round of the FA Cup for the first time in its history.

Sean Ray’s side knocked out Bishop Stortford in the Round One and are now just 90 minutes away from welcoming

the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

First they must overcome another non-league side in North Yorkshire’s Harrogate who also have their eye on the ultimate prize of a mouth watering third-round tie.

Chief reporter Sol Buckner measured the excitement and whether our town really is ‘Up for the Cup.’

LAST Saturday, in a quiet corner of Hertfordshire, the roar of a dedicated bunch of Sussexmen could be heard almost all the way back to south coast.

There were scenes of mass jubilation as 300 battle-hardened fans celebrated beating Bishop Stortford in the most famous football competition in the world.

The men in maroon had earned a chance to put their names down in 1066 folklore as potential giant killers.

But not only can they achieve cult status at their Pilot Field ground, they are helping raise much needed funds for their cash-strapped club.

In April, the Observer reported how the club was just one major repair away from serious financial difficulties as it battled to avoid relegation.

Since entering the competition in the summer, the team has earned £45,000 in prize money.

A win in Yorkshire will bring in another £27,000 and set up a lucrative tie against a Premiership or Championship

team.

The lure of the TV cameras could also be a six figure banker with ITV beaming the match to an audience of several million during the first weekend of December.

One of the fans who is relishing the chance to make the third round is Dennis Smith.

As the secretary of the Hastings United Supporters Club he has seen his far share of ups and downs.

“We’re definitely up for the cup,” he said. “I am looking forward to the trip to Yorkshire.

“There is no reason why we can’t win and then pull a big club in the third round.

“It is a mystery to me where all the fans suddenly come from. We get a few hundred turning out in the middle of winter and then it trebles when there is a cup run.

“When we played Stevenage in the cup a few years ago we took 1,200 there.

“I don’t think we’ll get that many going to Harrogate. It’s about an 800 mile round trip.

“But if we get a big Premier league club in the next round they will be queuing around the block to get their hands on tickets.

“The money would keep us going for a year or two.

“I’d like to get Tottenham in the next round, though would take any of the big Premier League boys.”

Club vice president Clive Galbraith is already making plans for the trip north.

“Last Saturday was one of the best games I’ve ever been to,” he said. “In 35 years of supporting the club I’ve never known anything like it.

“And I can’t wait for the trip to Harrogate. We’ve already had a look at the map - it’s a fair old, haul.

“But I reckon we’ll take about 200 or 300 fans.

“There is a buzz in our office already and everyone it talking about it. I reckon we will 1-2 and then we want Manchester

United in the third round. Rooney and Van Persie at the Pilot Field, what a result.”

Fellow fan and council leader, Jeremy Birch, is also confident United can bring home the bacon.

“We are going to be the next Yeovil,” he said. “I am sure the team’s success will encourage more people to go and watch them.

“It’s fantastic to see the Pilot Field on TV and if they win through and pull United, Chelsea or Arsenal out of the hat it would have to be the live match. It’s great to Hastings on TV at any time.”