Last season, Leatherhead went on a mesmerising run to the second round of the FA Cup – the first time we had done so in 39 years. The last time back in 1978, saw Leatherhead defeat Brighton & Hove Albion before going two nil up versus Leicester City at Filbert Street. The giant killers of that wonderful side cemented themselves as Leatherhead legends with that feat four decades ago.
The qualifying rounds last year were navigated simply enough, with wins against teams including Margate and Cray Valley. Our reward was a place in Round 1 where we drew big-spending Billericay Town boasting ex-Premiership players Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant and Paul Konchesky in their ranks. After a 1-1 at Fetcham Grove, Leatherhead put in an accomplished performance to comfortably brush them aside in the replay, setting up a 2nd round clash with League 2 side Wycombe Wanderers at their nine and a half thousand seater stadium, Adams Park. Fans were starting to dream big. After all, we were one round away from a potential tie with a Premier League giant.
Despite taking an early lead versus our football league opponents we were unable to see out the game, and ended up losing by three goals to one. But the memories made throughout that wonderful journey will last a lifetime for fans who’ve followed the club for years through the darker days. I caught up with one of Leatherhead’s most notable fans, Scotsman William ‘Bill’ McNulty to capture the FA cup experience through his eyes…
Bill on Billericay: The Billericay tie should never have gone to a second game! We should really have finished them off at home. We were by far the better team in the first game and even the Billericay fans will tell you the same. When they went one up at their ground in the replay our heads went up instead of down. I missed their goal as I was inside chatting to the Billericay fans. But we had great away support that day and tore them apart on the pitch and we really deserved it. I was on TV that night too. The camera swung round to me and my clumsy face was on BT sport!
Bill’s memorable moment: Probably beating Margate because they are a hard team and we destroyed them too! So yeah, Margate was a good day out. We only took a few busloads of supporters, not that many, but had great, vocal support as always.
Wycombe: Proudest Tanners memory? Possibly, but also promotion back into the Rymans league a few years ago after beating Folkestone, that was one of my best moments. Wycombe was great, we took over 1000 fans but Adams Park is in the middle of nowhere, in an industrial estate.
They had tents outside charging £3 a bottle so a lot of the boys went to the off-license. We sang throughout, before the game and even when we were losing! It was a great day out, but in my 10 years following the Tanners, beating Folkestone on penalties to get back into the league probably comes before it.
FA cup draw: For the 1st round draw we were all in the clubhouse when we were put up against Billericay and I was upset thinking: “here we go, they’ll beat us.” So for the 2nd round draw I was really hoping for a team at our level to give us the best chance of going that extra round! We got Wycombe who weren’t having the best of spells then, so I was confident going there.
FA cup dreams: It’s always in your dreams to get a team like Man United or Chelsea, it is in most non-league supporters dreams. But I don’t see it happening this year. We are building again so I would be happy to get a couple of cup wins and bring some money into the club.