Twenty-one clubs will make their Emirates FA Cup debuts this weekend, but none have had to wait longer than Framlingham Town to grace the famous competition.
Founded in 1887, The Castlemen have never previously featured in the world’s oldest cup competition.
However, that is all set to change tomorrow afternoon when Wadham Lodge — also tournament debutants — will be their visitors for an Extra Preliminary Round tie (3pm).
It is a match that will continue the club’s upward trajectory under manager Mel Aldis’ stewardship.
Three years ago they were playing in Division One of the Touchline Suffolk & Ipswich League (Step 8), but two promotions and a seventh-placed finish in last season’s Thurlow Nunn League First Division has guided the club to this historic juncture.
And, to mark the occasion, the Football Association visited Framlingham’s Badingham Road base on Wednesday with the trophy, allowing the club’s players, officials and supporters to see the silverware up close.
For Aldis, the FA Cup is nothing new, having both played and managed in it down the years.
Even so, as he prepares to lead Framlingham on their maiden campaign, the experienced chief remains excited and enthused, particularly for those that have never experienced such an event.
“The FA Cup is probably not the biggest deal to other local sides — they have been playing in it for a long time,” said the former Stowmarket boss.
“But we were in SIL Division One not long ago and have had one of the longest waits in history to play in the competition.
“I am more pleased for those that have been involved with the club for the last 40 or 50 years.
“When they first got involved with Framlingham, they would never dreamed of seeing us running out in the FA Cup — the day is for them.
“I will be buzzing like I always am for every match, but for me, it is about seeing the happiness it brings to others.
“Only two players in our squad (goalkeepers Gary Rose and Louis Johnson) have experienced the FA Cup. My two sons are part of the team as well and it will be special seeing them involved.”
Framlingham’s opponents Wadham Lodge — formed in 2008 — finished 15th in the Essex Senior League (Step 5) last term.
The winners will receive £1,500 in prize money and face Mildenhall Town at home in the next round (August 19).