Hendon face biggest game in half a decade

The Greens are taking on former Premier League side Oldham Athletic in the FA Trophy on Saturday reports James Reid

Hendon FC players celebrating a goal

While the famous Wembley arch may loom large over Silver Jubilee Park, Hendon know their cup final is Saturday’s FA Trophy trip to Oldham Athletic.

The Pitching In Southern League Premier South side are primed for their biggest game in half a decade as they travel to Boundary Park, formerly the site of Premier League football, where they will compete for a place in the quarter-final. Victory would leave them just two games away from a trip to English football’s grandest stage that would take just 15 minutes by car.

The Greens have battled through four rounds so far, twice beating higher tier opposition in Eastbourne Borough and Weymouth, but lifelong fan Paul Sachdev admits while their toughest test is yet to come, the day will live long beyond what happens on the pitch on Saturday.

“It’s about making memories,” he said. “We have all got memories of different games; we have played at Luton, at Aldershot, the big one from back in the late 80s was Reading away. We brought loads of fans down there.

“These days are massive; we are probably not going to get to Wembley but the whole experience of playing these big teams in front of big crowds; some of the players will not have played in front of such big crowds.

“A lot of our players are young, so they won’t have played in grounds like this before.

“Oldham is a team with a lot of history so the whole experience, travelling up is going to be great. We have got two supporters coaches going which is unusual for us as well. We are bringing a lot of supporters down, there is a lot of interest in people going.

“It’s a massive day, for the players, for the fans, for such a small team to have this big game against a club with so much history, it’s a big deal.”

Hendon’s good cup run coincides with a successful league campaign, with Lee Allinson’s men seventh, five points outside the play-offs – somewhere they have not finished since 2018.

A lucrative tie against Oldham also means welcome additional funds for the seventh-tier club, something trust board member Sachdev knows more than most. But Sachdev, who also volunteers to co-ordinate the club’s social media, admitted the real reward will be a day in the sun for the club he has supported for 35 years.

“We can be there on a cold Tuesday night in front of a hundred-odd people, then all of a sudden you have this big away game where it’s mentioned in the newspapers and on TV,” he added.

“People talk about Hendon, coming into work I can say we’re playing Oldham and people know who I’m talking about. There are kids going up that have never been to a big Hendon game before, they’re used to little games.

“When we have gone through in the last couple of games in the FA Trophy, the connection between the fans and the players has been really big, celebrating together. It just brings everyone together. It is an escape from the league playing these cup games.

“Everything is going well for us but it is still a case, financially, that there are still a lot of problems like a lot of other clubs in our position.

“Hendon can’t survive without volunteers so everyone takes on roles, people are there on matchdays doing things and without these people there would be no club, so we all have to get involved.

“Money-wise alone it makes it a big, big game. We don’t usually have a big FA Trophy run so this year is a bit of a unique one and it is a big thing going to a place like Oldham.

“We don’t have much money at all so cup runs become a major thing for us in terms of just surviving. “The money from the FA Trophy, the FA Cup, becomes our way of surviving.”

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