Alvechurch boss Long aiming for more FA Cup heroics

Alvechurch celebrate another FA Cup victory (Ian Macvie)

By Alec McQuarrie

Alvechurch boss Ian Long’s phone won’t stop ringing after the seventh-tier club stunned League One Cheltenham 2-1 to knock them out of the FA Cup.

The Pitching In Southern Premier Central side are still the lowest-ranked side left in the competition after a Danny Waldron double dumped the Robins out on their own turf.

The Church now need another miracle away at Forest Green Rovers to match the fabled side of 1973 that lost 4-2 to Bradford City in the third round.

But the Worcestershire-based club proved they can mix it with League One opposition, to the delight of Long and the 1,500 fans packed into the Hazlewoods Stand at The Completely-Suzuki Stadium.

Long said: “The feeling when the whistle went and we’d done it, if you could bottle that you’d make billions and billions. The atmosphere was unbelievable.

“I’ve been telling them all week that we could do it. We’ve got a lot of ex-academy lads who’ve played with and against a couple of their lads, so I said to them it’s all about small margins.

“You could easily be in that dressing room and they could be in this one. I think we deserved it on the whole.

“We rode our luck on occasions against Cheltenham, but that was always going to be the case.

“With about 15 minutes to go we took our No.10 off and put on another centre back because they were loading the box.

“I said to my assistant, would you take a draw now? He said yeah, let’s hold on, get them back to our place and maybe get some TV dough.”

The shock of the round was curiously not picked for TV coverage, but Long is hoping the cameras will be present at The New Lawn to give them a very welcome windfall.

Top of the 47-year-old’s Christmas wish list is a new No.8 to ease the burden on his midfielders and like at every non-league club, the threat of financial ruin is never too far away.

Long said: “The TV rights money would be phenomenal. It would make a massive difference for us to get that TV game.

“It’s expensive running a non-league club especially with the cost of living crisis. Stuff like the floodlights cost a huge amount of money.

“There’s always something. I read the other day we needed an installation in a storage garage that cost a couple of grand.

“It would be a massive lift for us and probably cover most of our budget for the season.”

The incredible achievement has had other consequences too, with Long now the most sought-after non-league manager in the country.

“My phone’s still going to be honest,” said Long “I’ll be on a call for five minutes and when I come off I’ve got another ten messages. It hasn’t stopped.

“I’ve got media appearances with Sky, BT, BBC, talkSport, 5 Live. I’ve stopped looking to be honest so half the time I don’t even know who I’m talking to!”

As for their chances against Rovers, Long is optimistic they can upset the League Two champions.

“I’m hopeful we can pull off another shock. We’ve probably lost that surprise element now and I don’t think Forest Green will underestimate us,” said Long.

“We’re massive underdogs still, massive underdogs, but we’re just going to give it our best shot again.

“It’s a bonus for us. We’ve got nothing to lose and we’ve proved that we can compete.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/