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Haringey Borough will make their first ever appearance in the FA Cup first round tomorrow night and manager Tom Loizou could not have wished for better opponents.
The Bostik Premier League side will take on League One’s Wimbledon in a match that will be broadcast live on television.
“They’re FA Cup winners, as far as I’m concerned,” Loizou said of Wimbledon.
“They are the real and true Wimbledon FC, who played at Plough Lane with the Crazy Gang.
“For someone who’s just made history and qualified for the first round proper for the first time, to play someone like Wimbledon and be in that sort of company, it’s unbelievable. It could not have been a better draw.”
Friday’s game will be Boro’s sixth in the competition this season, a run which began with a preliminary round victory over Stanway Rovers on August 25 and included a dramatic 3-2 victory at Brentwood, where Boro scored a 90th minute equaliser and a stoppage-time winner.
It is a run that has swelled the club’s coffers in a way which can transform the basics at this level.
Loizou gives a list of priorities ranging from gym equipment for the players to tarmacking the club car park so locals attending the Sunday car boot sales “don’t get covered in stones or walk through puddles” any more.
A crowd of 3,000 is expected at Coles Park tomorrow night, a far cry from the regular crowds of around 350, and incomparable to the sorts of numbers seen a few years ago before the club began offering free season tickets.
“Four years ago we were getting 20 supporters,” Loizou said. “So the chairman said we’ll give everyone a free ticket and hopefully they buy a drink or a burger or something. All of a sudden we were getting 300 or 350 and that’s doubled in the last two weeks.
“When they all come on Friday night we’ll probably have to give away another 2,000 season tickets. Three years ago you said Haringey Borough and people said: ‘Who?’ Now everyone knows us.”
That reputation will only grow if they can get any sort of result tonight — something Loizou recognises will be a tall order.
Boro have slipped to 18th in the league, though in part because the FA Cup run has left them with games in hand and seen all but three of their home league fixtures postponed.
“The players are only human and their eye is on the FA Cup,” Loizou said. “The league form has dipped a bit, but we got a draw with the team who were second in the league [Enfield] at the weekend because I told them anyone who doesn’t perform won’t be playing on Friday.
“But everyone’s excited. The chairman’s running round like a little kid. It’s a one-chance-in-a-lifetime. I’m not going to stop that because it’s good for the players and good for the club.
“We’re not taking this game lightly. We know they’re four levels above us and it’s a slim chance, but, if we work hard and we get a little bit of luck, who knows what might happen?”
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