Shaun Reid was in his tiny manager’s office at Warrington Town’s Cantilever Park on Wednesday, enjoying a moment’s quiet amid the preparations for Friday night’s FA Cup date with Exeter City, when a familiar piece of music sounded over the stadium’s public-address system. “I’m sat there trying to put it into perspective when the Match of the Day theme comes on,” he says with a look of relish. “It’s massive, this.”
For the team from the Northern Premier League First Division North – English football’s eighth tier – it certainly is. Warrington are playing in the FA Cup first round for the first time and the match against an Exeter side precisely 100 places above them in the pyramid will be broadcast live on BBC2. Reid, who once gazed in awe at the old pot at the Royal Lancaster Hotel after his big brother Peter had won it with Everton in 1984, now finds the spotlight turned his way.
“It was an amazing day,” the 49-year-old tells The Independent of that long-ago brush with the trophy. “I went to the do afterwards and found myself alone with the FA Cup after a few shandies. I was a young pro with Rochdale and to be sat there with the FA Cup, with the blue-and-white ribbons on, was surreal.
“We all dream of that, and that’s why I hate the way it’s been devalued. It is the best trophy in the world. You’ve just walked in that car park and seen the TV trucks. This is Warrington Town, the BBC are here and six million people could watch on Friday night.”
Warrington have come through seven matches to get here and Reid, who played all his league football in the bottom division, repeats what he told his players before they stepped out for their final qualifying round tie against North Ferriby United.
“I stopped them at the door and said one thing: ‘I played 500 games or so and you only get one or two chances to make history. You’ve got a chance to make history for yourselves. Don’t let it pass you by.’ They went out and did it.”
All they needed then was a home tie. Reid, recalling some of Peter’s tackles, joked to Phil Neville, who made the first-round draw, that “if you don’t get me a home draw, I am going to two-foot you”, and his wish was granted.
What it means for Toby Macormac, Warrington’s chairman, is a significant windfall for a club whose average gate is 200. “We’ll have about 2,500 people at £15 a head,” Reid explains. “We’ll have TV revenue of near on £100,000. It keeps the club going for three years.”
Reid, who assisted Peter during his time as Plymouth manager, is in his third year at Warrington and led them into the play-offs last term. His part-time squad includes Craig Robinson, brother of the MK Dons manager Karl, and some of them, he explains, will be “working on Friday morning before the biggest game in their careers. There’s a solicitor, window cleaner, plasterers, football coaches, builders.”
This week they have had the “massive lift” of training at Everton’s Finch Farm complex after Bill Kenwright responded to a text from Reid who, owing to tonight’s TV date, had to reschedule their two weekly sessions but had no pitch.
The only pity is the absence tonight of Peter, who will be watching from India where he is managing Mumbai City in the Indian Super League. “They won the other night so he is doing smashing,” continues Shaun, the youngest of the five Reid siblings. “[Nicolas] Anelka scored a free-kick. A loan would have come in handy – Anelka for the week – but unfortunately it didn’t come off!” Even FA Cup fairy tales have their limit.Reuse content