IF THERE’s one way to unite a town, it’s a good cup run, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
On Sunday, Woking entertain Sky Bet League 2 side Accrington Stanley (2pm kick-off) in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup, which is expected to see a bumper crowd at The Laithwaite Community Stadium.
It’s a time when the BBC cameras keep rolling to catch sight of this season’s giant-killing acts, which could be Woking if the non-leaguers play their cards right.
While the National League side have made an indifferent start to their league campaign, their cup form has already seen them overcome Torquay United and Stockport County in this season’s illustrious cup competition.
And Cards’ boss Garry Hill knows that, if his side can pull-off an upset against Accrington, Woking could be in the running
for their biggest pay cheque this century if they were to draw a top Premier League or Championship side.
It’s been a long time coming for the Kingsfield-based club, whose last notable appearance in the FA Cup third round was against Coventry City in 1997, which Woking only lost in a replay.
But Hill and his players have no intention of reminiscing in the past and deviating from what’s needed on Sunday – something that is echoed by Woking chairlady Rosemary Johnson.
The former mayoress of Woking has fond memories of Woking’s cup exploits against West Bromwich Albion, Everton in early 1990s, but acknowledges it’s time to move on.
She said: “A lot of things have changed since we played Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
“Back then, the town was empty. It seemed like half the population of Woking was at Goodison Park. Our fans turned out in large numbers that day and it certainly helped the players.
“Having a vocal crowd behind you can make all the difference. When we played Stockport last month, our 200 or so travelling fans certainly made themselves heard. It had a positive impact on the players.
“If more local people can come along to support us on Sunday, it will only help to spur the players on. It’s a cup game after all, so anything can happen on the day, ” added Johnson.
To encourage more local people to get behind Garry Hill’s side this Sunday, The Cards have reduced the admission price for adults/concessions to just £10. Children Under-16 can also get in for free.
To date, Woking’s biggest gate this season was 1,403 against Eastleigh back in October. However, with a ground capacity of just over 6,000, Johnson is rightly hoping that Kingfield will be awash with red and white by 12noon.
And while the prospect of drawing Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City or Liverpool away in third round would be akin to winning the lottery, Johnson has a particular soft spot for Championship side QPR.
“I have always had a thing for QPR,” said Johnson. “I think it takes me back to my days when I was regularly commuting to and from Hammersmith.
“First things first, though, we have to get past Accrington on Sunday. And if we can do that, it’s only natural to think about what could happen next; whether it’s QPR or anyone else.
“If we can play on Sunday like we did against Stockport in the previous round, they [Accrington] wont know how to handle us.
“I know that Garry [Hill] and Tomo [Steve Thomson] have done their homework on them, so we need to give ourselves the best possible chance to win.
“If we’re at our best – and manage to draw a top club away in the next round – the gate receipts alone will really help to cover our running costs and help us prepare for next season. It’s a big day for Woking Football Club, and the more people that can attend the better,” she added.
With the gap increasingly narrowing between clubs in the National League and those in League 2, Johnson is quietly hoping that Woking can rekindle their giant-killing spirit of old to bolster the coffers.