Hastings United chairman Dave Walters says he could never have imagined such an incredible FA Cup journey.
Last night’s dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph over Harrogate Town means the U’s have won through six rounds in the world famous competition, three of them against higher level clubs.
Asked what his reaction would have been if someone had said when United hosted Chatham Town in first round qualifying on September 8 that they would be travelling to Middlesbrough in the third round proper, Walters said: “I would’ve said you’re having a laugh because we hadn’t won a match since 2006.
“Nobody could possibly have foreseen anything like this. I would like to find out when the last Ryman Premier club got to the third round of the FA Cup; not in my memory.”
Walters couldn’t speak highly enough of the players for their heroic exploits, not just in last night’s live televised game on ESPN, but during the present day United’s best ever FA Cup run as a whole.
“It’s awesome,” he continued. “In every FA Cup game they don’t know when they’re beaten. They dug in because Harrogate had decent possession, but they didn’t really test Matt (Armstrong-Ford, United’s goalkeeper).
“I had gone from being cheerleader to being devastated at full time (after Harrogate’s late equaliser) and the pressure on those lads in the penalties...My heart was going 10 to the dozen so what must they have been going through.”
As well as the prestige of still being involved in the FA Cup when the Premier League giants enter the fray in the new year, United’s extraordinary progress has given the club’s finances a huge boost.
They have now scooped more than £72,000 in FA prize-money alone, plus television money and gate revenue. Walters had said before last night’s game that the income has secured the club’s short-term future and afterwards said the victory “takes it to another level”.