Chichester City have made history, national headlines – and enough money to secure their short-term future.
The heroic team won through to the first round proper of the FA Cup for only the second time in the club’s history at the weekend – then in a remarkable turn of events 48 hours later, were handed an automatic place in the second round thanks to a bye.
City have come through SIX qualifying rounds to reach the ‘proper’ stage of the cup, earning £45,000 prize money in the process. Their first-round bye adds another £36,000 and if they were to win in the second round, they would net another £54,000 and stand a chance of playing a Premier League or Championship club in round three.
For a club that nearly went under a couple of years ago, it’s huge. But apart from the financial aspect, Chichester City’s Cup story has become a national one, and their vow to make a donation to Bury FC, the threatened club whose plight caused the spare place in the first round, has won them national acclaim.
Don't miss today's Chichester Observer for full coverage on Chichester City's amazing FA Cup week-with reports, reaction and pictures galore
Now City have a five-week wait for their next FA Cup assignment - and need to catch up with games in the Isthmian League south-east division in the meantime.
City manager Miles Rutherford heaped praise on his players for battling to a 2-1 fourth qualifying round win away to Bowers and Pitsea on Saturday and said everyone was determined to enjoy the ongoing Cup heroics.
Rutherford told us: “We’ve got good people at the club and that includes the players and everyone behind the scenes. We’ve got a long way to go to get the club where it should be but this Cup run is massive for all of us. I’ve told everyone to enjoy it because it’s not something that happens often. Some football people will never experience it.
“We’ve had some luck and you need that, but we’ve also beaten some very good teams. Now we’ve had more luck to get into the second round. Getting that bye was like winning the National Lottery.
“I was stood there at the draw and, though I’m normally quite negative, from the time there were only half a dozen teams left, I was certain we were going to get the bye. It just adds to an unbelievable season being enjoyed by exceptional players.
“As for the prize money, we were on our knees two years ago and it’s not a case of just being able to spend this money. We need to secure the club for two, three, four years. It’s not cheap running an Isthmian League club and this is vital for us.”
City did come back down to earth on Tuesday night with a 5-0 home defeat to East Grinstead, Rutherford said they would have to put that right with a league visit to Hythe on Saturday.
Here is how we have reported on City's Cup of joy since Saturday with words, pictures and video