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Histon prepare for 'biggest game'

FA Cup second round: Histon v Leeds
Venue: Glass World Stadium Date: Sunday, 30 November Kick-off: 1215 GMT
Coverage: Full live commentary on BBC Radio Leeds plus coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC local radio, score updates on BBC Sport website. Live on ITV1.

Histon FC
Histon have only played League opposition three times in their history

By Peter Swan
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

It is the classic FA Cup story, former European giants Leeds United at plucky non-league Histon.

Sunday's second-round clash at the Glass World Stadium pits a humbled colossus of the English game against a band of over-achievers from just to the north of Cambridge.

It is a tie which perfectly captures the so-called 'Romance of the Cup'.

The twin villages of Histon and Impington - home to Histon FC - have a combined population of around 8,500.

It's the tie we all wanted to help raise the profile of our club, everything that this match will generate will help us long-term and that's the biggest aim

Histon boss Steve Fallon
There are five churches, six pubs, a post office, a police station, a duck pond and until recently a fairly regular village football team.

Histon were playing in the Southern League when Leeds reached the Champions League semi-final in 2001.

With only modest resources, the club has steadily climbed the non-league pyramid and last year finished seventh in their first season at Conference National level.

A few years back, a clash against former European Cup finalists would have been unimaginable.

Speaking after the second-round draw, manager Steve Fallon told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: "It's the tie we all wanted to help raise the profile of our club.

"Everything that this match will generate will help us long-term and that's the biggest aim."

Steve Fallon
Steve Fallon has been with Histon for the past nine seasons
Fallon has been with Histon since 1999 and - alongside assistant John Beck - is the man responsible for masterminding the club's on-field success.

A Cambridge United stalwart, he has ruffled more than a few feathers in recent seasons with a hat-trick of victories against his former club.

However an equally vital cog in the Histon machine is chairman Gareth Baldwin, who has been responsible for ensuring that the club's infrastructure has kept pace with the exploits of their playing squad.

In a village with a population of just over 8,000 securing financial backing has not always been easy, but Baldwin knows the FA Cup will prove a big boost.

"Statistically we found that in 2004 [when Histon reached the second round] we grew our fan base by 30% because of our FA Cup run," he said.

"If this FA Cup run can do the same that would be exceptional."

Histon will hope to make close on to 100,000 from their cup run once all the extra costs of staging the Leeds match are taken into account - and that is assuming they don't make the third round.

Given that the club's record signing - midfielder Josh Simpson - cost less than a 10th of that sum, this season's FA Cup will prove magical for Histon whatever the outcome on Saturday.

However, Fallon says he is unlikely to be splashing the cash come January: "The money will be spent wisely, we've got ground improvements which need to be made if and when we get into the League.

"All the FA Cup money has done is supplement what would have been a loss due to the financial climate."

Extravagant spending is not something that comes naturally at Histon.

On reaching the Conference National in 2007, the board took the prudent decision to remain part-time.

And despite going into the Leeds match sitting top of the table - the highest-ranked non-league side in the country - most of the squad have second jobs.

Histon were celebrating victory over Shrewsbury in the first round in 2004
Striker Danny Wright is a joiner, centre back Matt Langston is a postman and left-back Gareth Gwillim works on the London Underground.

Captain Mat Mitchel-King - who works as a model and has body doubled for the likes of Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand - admits having two careers can get tiresome.

"There are days when you're up early or working a long shift and have to go straight to training," he said.

"But we want to be there - we're young players who want to do well and the FA Cup is the sort of thing that gives us the drive and appetite to keep going."

On Sunday all the hardship will be forgotten as the players enjoy the biggest match in which many of them are ever likely to play.

Sunday is Histon's time to shine and chairman Gareth Baldwin wants to see the club make the most of their moment in the sun.

"It's sweeping the nation, we're in all the nationals, we're in all the redtops, we're in everything and all the papers and media are talking about Histon," he said.

"The win, win, win of the FA Cup and the profile it's brought, you cannot measure, it's phenomenal."

Additional reporting by Nick Fairbairn, Dave Remnant and Tom Williams.

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see also
Fallon thrilled with Leeds tie
18 Nov 08 |  Histon
FA Cup second round draw
18 Nov 08 |  FA Cup
Histon 1-0 Swindon
08 Nov 08 |  FA Cup
Histon hunting Cambridge scalp
13 Dec 06 |  Cambridge Utd

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