DARREN Byfield can already sense a buzz of FA Cup excitement as Alvechurch take the first steps on the Road to Wembley on Saturday.
As a player, it was a bitter-sweet competition for him, with the best effort being Sunderland’s run to the semi-final in 2004, only for Byfield to have to watch from the sidelines because he was cup-tied having played for Rotherham.
But now Alvechurch look to create their own memorable moments when they visit fellow step four side Belper Town in Saturday’s first qualifying round. Church have only twice in the past three decades got beyond the second qualifying round and Byfield understands the importance of the cup to every non-League club.
“Everybody looks forward to the FA Cup – it’s a great competition for the fans, the players and the club,” he said.
“Everybody wants a good run. The financial aspect is a big thing. We know how important it is.
“It’s not about performances – it’s about making sure, by hook or by crook, that you get through. It’s just about getting to the next round.”
Byfield will be fully prepared to face Northern League DIvision One South East side Belper, having watched their replay win over Sporting Khalsa in midweek. The Nailers are unbeaten so far but Church will head to Derbyshire in upbeat mood after chalking up their first away win of the season at Leiston last weekend.
“I watched Belper play Khalsa and they are a big, strong,” said Byfield. “They are unbeaten so we know it’s going to be a tough game.
“But apart from Stu McNaught being injured, we will have everybody else available so I’ve got options.”
The 2-1 victory at Leiston, courtesy of Josh Ezewele and a Harry Knights own goal, was even more commendable after Alvechurch’s journey to Suffolk took SIX hours.
“It was a great win, I was so proud of the players,” said Byfield. “It took six hours to get there and then we had seven minutes to warm up and kick off. I thought the lads would find it really hard but the attitude was spot on. I was really happy.”
A much-changed Church side, minus Ezewele, Kyle Morrison, Kevin Monteiro, Ben Usher-Shipway, Ryan Nesbitt and Jordan Goddard, bowed out of the JW Hunt Cup on Tuesday, losing 6-5 on penalties at Wolverhampton Sporting Community after a 2-2 draw.
A 25-yard thunderbolt from Rahis Nabi levelled matters and an excellent run and finish from Javia Roberts put Church ahead, only to concede with the last kick of the game.
But there were plenty of positives for Byfield, notably the display of 16-year-old defender George Clarke who, having impressed for the youth team on Monday, then got his senior debut 24 hours later.
“I watched the under 18s on Monday and there were a few players who could step up,” said Byfield. “George played 90 minutes on Monday, then 90 minutes on Tuesday and he was man of the match. I was delighted with him.”
The fairytale start was soured, however, when Clarke was the unlucky player to miss in the shoot-out.