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Tipton Town set for FA Cup first round debut

Tipton fans
Fans gather on the grass bank as Tipton break their club record attendance against Sheffield FC

By Phil Maiden
BBC Sport

In their 62-year history Tipton Town have seen their fair share of changes.

Having started as an amateur team playing in a local park, the club which is most famous for discovering Wolves legend Steve Bull will make their FA Cup first round proper debut at Carlisle on Saturday.

It is an incredible achievement considering Town have only been able to enter the competition for four years and have already played eight Cup matches so far this season.

From their humble beginnings as Ocker Hill United, formed in 1948, the club have gone from the Wolverhampton and District Amateur League to second in the Midland Alliance Division One, the fifth tier of non-league football.

Tipton stalwart John Cross
John Cross has been connected with Tipton for more than 40 years

John Cross is a Tipton stalwart who has witnessed the club's steady rise, having started at the club as a third-team player in 1959, and he says he cannot believe how much interest their Cup run is generating.

"It's been unbelievable, it's gone from parks football to now playing on a Football League ground. No-one could have forecast that at all and we're just over the moon," he said.

"If we can just get the right result on Saturday, well what a fillip for the town. The amount of people who've suddenly become interested as well, we've gone from a normal crowd of 70 or 80 and suddenly we've got five coaches going to Carlisle."

And Cross believes the limelight will help Tipton to progress and follow in the footsteps of former Cup giant-killers Chasetown, who were one division above Town when they beat Port Vale before losing to Cardiff in the third round in 2008.

"This club is going the same way as Chasetown went and they've gone up several divisions," he said. "Don't forget they played Oldham, Port Vale and Cardiff in the FA Cup and did awfully well against them.

"They must be at least two leagues higher than us now.

"We've become a focal point and if you can improve the facilities even better. Who knows who you're going to attract and who knows where you can stop?

"It's not just opening the club's eyes, all the people in Tipton have come down to watch us, they're buying scarves and rosettes. Those are the eyes that have been opened.

"Let's hope that if we can keep successful those then become permanent supporters."

The Cup has certainly had an impact on the club, with their record crowd being broken in their fourth qualifying round replay win over Sheffield FC, which saw 1,429 people turn up to the council-owned Tipton Sports Academy, which is shared with Tipton Harriers athletics club.

Steve Palmer
Palmer played against Cambridge and Blackpool in the first round

Although Town have never faced League opposition in the FA Cup before, defender Steve Palmer knows all about playing for a non-league club in the first round.

The son of former Wolves League Cup winning defender Geoff, Palmer has made two first round appearances for Telford but he says this will be the biggest tie he has played in.

"It's far more special this time. When I was with Telford we were a Conference side so we only probably needed to win one game to make the first round proper," he said.

"But with Tipton we've played eight games leading up to Saturday. So for a team like Tipton to be in the first round is beyond everyone's wildest dreams around here.

"We've always been disappointed with the fact that not many people from the town come down and watch us but that night against Sheffield was unbelievable."

With his father having made more than 400 appearances for local giants Wolves, Palmer says it does not mean he will necessarily be looking to follow in his footsteps.

"A couple of dad's biggest regrets were that he got beaten in the semi-final twice. That's something he's never really been able to get over to this day," he said.

"To miss out twice must have been really upsetting but obviously he won two League Cup finals which would slightly make up for that.

"But it's not so much following in dad's footsteps it's about me making my own piece of history and at my age now, 33, to be in the first round proper with a side like Tipton is something I will cherish for a long time.

"I don't think we ever dreamt we could get this far. With the prize money you get now it's obviously extra special for the people behind the club that work so hard."

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see also
FA Cup first round draw details
27 Oct 10 |  FA Cup
FA Cup - fourth qualifying round
27 Oct 10 |  FA Cup
FA Cup success for Tipton Town
28 Oct 10 |  People and Places

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