Emley’s name might not be on the FA Cup but the club’s extraordinary six-match run is certainly capturing the imagination.
The Pewits are the lowest ranked side left in this year’s competition and have already put out two sides from a league above.
Remarkably, Emley lost their first game and were only reinstated into the competition because opponents Avro fielded an ineligible player.
Since then Emley have been drawn away every time and despatched Lower Breck 5-1 before needing replays to send Widnes and Mossley packing.
They’ve now reached the 3rd qualifying round – two matches from the first round proper – and they go to National League North side Alfreton Town on Saturday September 30.
Chairman Andrew Painten hailed the club’s amazing journey and said: “It’s just unbelievable and no one could have written the script.
“To put it into context, if we got to the first round proper that’s the equivalent of Huddersfield Town getting to the final and winning the cup – the amount of games would be the same. That shows what a big achievement this is.
“This is the furthest the club has gone in over 20 years in the FA Cup and for us it’s all about the experience.
“Sometimes the FA Cup gets some stick but it’s seen a resurgence in recent years and it’s still one of the most prestigious cup competitions in the world.
“We might lose at Alfreton but we may progress. It’s all about two little words – ‘what if?’”
It’s not the FA Cup – it’s the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Cup that Emley won last season
Emley believed their FA Cup journey had ended at the first hurdle when they lost 2-0 at home to Avro, who deservedly ran out winners.
But about a week later news broke that Avro had fielded an ineligible player and Emley were reinstated.
Andrew said: “I feel very, very sorry for Avro because their football administration staff will be all volunteers, like we are, and football administration is incredibly tough.
“However good you are, it can come back and bite you and it must hurt Avro every time we have progressed in the competition.
“Until we received an email from the FA about it we had no idea. I was in Italy moping around after we’d lost against Avro and I was still away when we were reinstated.
“Then I was straight back for the Lower Breck game and they play in the Anfield area of Liverpool. So we can say we’ve been to Anfield and thrashed them 5-1! That was an early highlight of the season.
“Apart from Avro we’ve been drawn away every time and maybe that’s our lucky omen.”
It needed replays to get past Widnes and Mossley – both from the Northern Premier League and a higher level than Emley.
Andrew is reluctant to call it a “giantkilling” and said: “We’ve taken two higher league scalps but it’s not quite a giantkilling as I think we’re at least on a par with them.
“They are above us so would have expected to progress but we have dumped them out. Widnes never looked like winning but Mossley was much more dramatic with late goals and extra-time.”
Alfreton, from three divisions higher, will be a different proposition so a win for Emley would be a classic “giantkilling.”
Andrew added: “Personally I don’t know too much about Alfreton but they will be a far tougher prospect.
“I’ll leave all that to manager Richard Tracey and his team. Richard played under the Alfreton manager Billy Heath so he’ll have some insight into how he likes to play and we’re also using our contacts to do our homework on them.”
Emley chairman Andrew Painten (left) with vice-chairman Marcus Pound
The old Emley club, of course, has history in the FA Cup and memorably got to the third round in 1998 when they went to Upton Park to take on star-studded Premier League side West Ham.
Emley were heartbreakingly close to forcing a replay before John Hartson’s late winner secured a 2-1 win for the Hammers.
The club celebrated the 25th anniversary of that epic game in January this year but now the current team is getting some of the spotlight too.
Whereas it was national newspapers from The Times to the Sunday Sport who lapped up Emley’s 1998 journey, there’s been a buzz of media interest in the class of 2023 with interviews for BBC Radio Leeds and the Non-League Paper among others.
“Richard’s phone has been buzzing all week and we are getting some attention for little old Emley,” said Andrew.
“Our club was formed in 1903 and has a proud history and heritage and we are determined there will be another highlight in the history of Emley at some point soon.”
Emley’s name might not be on the FA Cup this year but ‘what if’…