Weston-super-Mare boss Craig Laird says the prospect of meeting Football League opposition in the FA Cup first round proper is acting as a powerful incentive to his players.
Laird’s squad is brimful of youngsters who have a point to prove after being released by professional clubs earlier in their careers.
Ross Stearn and Martin Slocombe started out at Bristol City, Nadi Diablo and Kayne McLaggon were on the books at Bristol Rovers as trainees, while Nat Pepperell, Jamie Price and Jamie Laird experienced the heartache of being let go by Swansea, Yeovil and Plymouth, respectively.
They would love nothing better than to test themselves against full-time professionals in the first round proper, but Weston must first negotiate a tricky home tie against Blue Square North Worcester in the third qualifying round at the Woodspring Stadium tomorrow.
Manager Laird will use the lure of potential glory further down the road to motivate his charges ahead of what he describes as “our most exciting game of the season so far”.
He said: “The FA Cup offers an opportunity for my players to test themselves against Football League opposition. That is the incentive they have to reach the first round.
“A lot of my players have had a taste of professional football and were either unlucky or not quite good enough.
“For a lot of them, playing teams from higher leagues in this competition represents a rare opportunity for them to prove a point to themselves.”
A prize fund of £7,500 is available to the winners of tomorrow’s tie and Laird acknowledged: “This is an important competition for all clubs at our level.
“But it’s not just about the money. Some of the gloss might have gone from FA Cup final day, but the magic is still there at our level.
“I’ve been involved for 20 to 30 years now and the excitement never dwindles for me.”
Confidence is high in the Seagulls’ camp following four successive wins and Laird’s team will be further bolstered by the return of fit-again centre-back Matt Villis.