29th September 2017
The FA Cup, the Road to Wembley, the lush green turf of the home of English football.
The sound of the brass band playing out ahead of the cup final, as supporters wave their tin-foil versions of the trophy.
‘Abide with me’ reverberating around Wembley, before the The National Anthem is belted out.
The nerves, the tension, the expectancy.
Who doesn’t love the FA Cup? For me, it is the best club cup competition in the world.
And it shouldn’t be lost on any of us just how important it is to clubs in our region.
Whilst the ‘big boys’ are still months away from entering, three of our clubs face huge Third Qualifying Round ties this weekend.
There is a historic fixture at Mariners Park as South Shields face York City.
The tie marks the first competitive meeting of the reigning FA Vase and FA Trophy holders.
It also marks the next high point in the ascendency of South Shields.
Their meeting with the Minstermen will further fuel the unstoppable momentum that they possess at this point in time.
Mariners Park will be packed and can you really rule out an upset with the talents of Gavin Cogdon, Julio Arca and Carl Finnigan in the South Shields side.
But they aren’t the only North East club hosting former Football League opposition this weekend.
Ebac Northern League club Newcastle Benfield have already beaten two sides from higher up the league pyramid in this cup run, but now face their mightiest task yet.
Kidderminster Harriers make the trip to Tyneside on Saturday and you can bet Sam Smith’s Park will be the place to be.
You can underestimate the size of the task that lies in wait for Benfield, but their visitors are in for a shock.
Harriers are a club that are used to plying their trade at Football League grounds, which for all of its charm, Sam Smith’s Park is not.
It has a much-improved playing surface, but not one that would look at home in the Football League.
There are no 8,000 to 10,000 capacity stands at Benfield’s home, but the visitors will feel the home faithful breathing down their necks.
They will also be given a warm welcome, by one of the Northern League’s most hospitable clubs.
On the pitch, Harriers will be tested by the talents of the evergreen Paul Brayson.
Brayson is a striker that learnt his trade under Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United, training alongside the likes of Ferdinand, Beardsley and Shearer.
For all of his obvious talent, his Magpies career amounted to one senior appearance.
After leaving St James Park, Brayson went on to forge a reputation as a prolific striker with the likes of Reading and Cardiff City.
His move into non-league only enhanced his reputation, as he regularly found the back of the net with Blyth Spartans, Northwich Victoria and Harrogate Town.
Now, at the age of 40, Brayson is still one of the Northern League’s most feared strikers and has plundered over 130 goals in the last three seasons.
What price that he does the same in a shock win on Saturday?
It is nearly fourteen years since a Northern League club reached the First Round proper of the FA Cup.
That was back in 2003, when Shildon ventured to the Football League’s oldest club Notts County.
Since then, many have tried, some have come close, none have succeeded.
The Railwaymen are at it again this season and they face a long trip to Banbury United, knowing a win would take them to within ninety minutes of the First Round proper.
They go into the game in fine form and are unbeaten in all competitions this season.
Their away record is faultless, with eight wins from eight in the Northern League and FA Cup.
They are still underdogs, their opponents are from two levels higher but Daniel Moore’s side will still fancy their chances of pulling off an upset.
Good luck to our three clubs in their ties this weekend.
There are other games in the region this weekend and they are listed below (Fixtures outside of the region are not included):
Middlesbrough v Brentford
Gateshead v Boreham Wood
FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Newcastle Benfield v Kidderminster Harriers
South Shields v York City
Northern League Division One
Bishop Auckland v Washington
Consett v West Auckland Town
Dunston UTS v Jarrow Roofing BCA
Guisborough Town v Billingham Synthonia
Marske United v Team Northumbria
Morpeth Town v Newton Aycliffe
North Shields v Sunderland RCA
Penrith v Ryhope CW
Stockton Town v Seaham Red Star
Whitley Bay v Ashington
Northern League Division Two
Bedlington Terriers v Tow Law Town
Billingham Town v Hebburn Town
Chester-Le-Street v Esh Winning
Crook Town v Durham City
Easington Colliery v Darlington RA
Heaton Stannington v Brandon United
Ryton & Crawcrook Albion v Jarrow
West Allotment Celtic v Alnwick Town
Whickham v Blyth AFC
Willington v Northallerton Town
Newcastle United v Liverpool