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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Stourbridge ready to make history

By Andrew Toft

Gary Hackett
Hackett played with Walsall assistant boss Martin O'Connor at Bromsgrove

All good things come to those who wait.

After more than a century of patience and pain Stourbridge are finally preparing to step off the sidelines and make their debut appearance in the first round of the FA Cup.

Formed in 1876, the Glassboys have been in existence longer than nearby Wolves and West Brom.

But while their illustrious neighbours have contributed significant plot-points to the story of the FA Cup, the competition has not been kind to the Zamaretto League side.

Before last month's 4-0 fourth qualifying round win against Buxton they had reached the same stage five times - each tie ending in defeat.

So a plum home derby with Walsall is just reward for decades of cup dismay.

It will be the proudest moment of my footballing life

Stourbridge president Hugh Clark

Club president Hugh Clark, who has supported Stourbridge since shortly after the Second World War, witnessed the near misses.

"We have had successes down the years but this is something we thought maybe wouldn't come," he said.

Clark remembers the days when Stourbridge regularly attracted crowds of 3,000 - a far cry from today's attendances which barely reach a 10th of that figure.

Saturday will be a different story - a packed house offering an emotional reminder of the post-war era.

"I don't get too excited about things these days but I have to admit when I saw our supporters queuing up for tickets it brought a lump to my throat," he said.

"There will be 1,700 there on Saturday, it will be the proudest moment of my footballing life.

"We couldn't have asked for more than to be drawn against Walsall at home and I think we have a chance. They'll certainly know they've been in a game."

For everyone connected with Stourbridge it will be a special afternoon at the War Memorial Ground.


But manager Gary Hackett is determined to ensure his team approach the occasion in exactly the same way as they do any other game.

"The players will train twice in the week and then report to the ground for the game as normal on Saturday," he said.

"If I did something different like saying we are all going to go for a pre-match meal together beforehand then I think that would be a major distraction for the players.

"The club is absolutely buzzing. Everyone was euphoric when we were drawn against Walsall, but we have to make sure we aren't distracted."

Business-as-usual is the chief maxim during the run-up to the game but Hackett will also impress on his players the importance of seizing their moment in the FA Cup spotlight.

"My message to them will be 'don't let the game pass you by'. Of course they'll be nervous but they have to use that to the maximum," he said.

Hackett is a stalwart of the West Midlands scene with a CV which lists playing spells at West Brom and Shrewsbury.

In football you generally get more disappointments than good days, so when they come along you've got to enjoy them

Stourbridge boss Gary Hackett

That professional career gives him an acute appreciation of the commitment his part-time squad of teachers, builders, bank managers and others make to play every week.

An FA Cup first round appearance is tangible reward for that investment of time and effort.

"The dedication is immense, to train twice a week after you've worked a full day," he said.

"I've seen a different side of the game as a professional. If I'd have been asked to train in the afternoon I would have moaned about it. I didn't realise how good I'd got it, I wish I had appreciated it more at the time."

After seven years as manager there is no doubt Hackett has a full appreciation of what Saturday means to Stourbridge.

And while he is determined to keep a steady hand on the tiller amid the waves of excitement washing through the club, he also intends to savour the occasion.

"I'll have a glass of rioja on Friday night, but I don't think I'll have any problems sleeping," he said.

"In football you generally get more disappointments than good days, so when they come along you've got to enjoy them."

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