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Idiots Guide to the FA Trophy
By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 23/11/2010 (Last updated: 24/11/2010)
THE FA Trophy, which Town will play their first ever game against Redditch in on Saturday December 11th at Blundell Park, is a bit of a mystery to most supporters I suspect. I lost track of how many people I have had to explain what the Johnstone Paint Trophy is, and the first point of call with this cup it to understand it myself.
So, here goes... The FA Trophy is a bit like the a cross between the JPT and the FA Cup, but for clubs playing in Steps 1-4 of the National League System. What are they? Well we play in Level One, and beneath us is an immense pyramid of football divisions. The top twelve divisions in that pyramid all compete in the FA trophy, and the lower level sides have played up to three qualifying round to get to the first round proper which is where we come in.
Teams beneath Step 4 (of which there are a vast number) compete in the FA Vase (which Brigg Town have won twice), something I don't anticipate ever watching the Mariners play in, but then this wasn't exactly something which I ever believed we'd be ever taking part in either.
The FA Trophy is officially called the FA Carlsberg Trophy, and if we stick in it we'll probably all end up going to some places no other Mariners supporter has trodden before (apart from Chris Smith, who has been everywhere!).
As for the competition itself, which has been around since 1970, all matches are played on a Saturday, and there are replays if the match is drawn. That explains why there are so many league fixtures in late summer and early autumn in the Conference, as a lot of weekends are set aside for the FA Cup and FA Trophy around this time of year (we've already got two free Saturday for a spot of Christmas shopping in our fixture programme due to the failure to qualify against Tamworth in the FA Cup).
Grimsby will have to win six (plus possible replays) matches to get to the final, which is normally held at Wembley. The winners in the past have tended to be clubs around where we are in the table, rather than the clubs most obviously competing for automatic promotion. Recent winners include Barrow, Stevenage, Ebbsfleet and Grays. Interestingly no league side who has been relegated has won it since Colchester in 1992. Maybe there isn't a tradition or interest amongst the clubs and their supporters, or perhaps it's just a coincidence. We could be the first ever former league side to win it for almost 20 years, who knows...
If there is a historical comparison, Grimsby won the Johnstone Paint Trophy (then the equally obscurely named Autowindscreen Shield) in 1998, their first ever year of taking part in that particular tournament).
So Redditch first up at Blundell Park, let's hope it's part of a great adventure like we have back in 1998.…
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