ANYBODY CONNECTED with Mossley Football Club will have a keen interest in non-league Curzon Ashton’s Emirates FA Cup, second-round tie against Sky Bet League One club AFC Wimbledon on Sunday, December 4.
Former Lilywhites’ manager John Flanagan has guided the Nash to the second round for only the second time in the club’s history for a tie that is being televised live of BT Sports.
And three ex-Seel Park players, Andy Watson, Chris Rowney and Connor Hampson, are part of the fairytale cup run.
Curzon’s cup adventure began in the second qualifying round in September and the game against the Dons will be their eighth in the competition with three of the previous four rounds going to replays.
“We like replays and I would take another, even better if it had a slot on television,” joked the 58-year-old kitchen fitter.
Flanagan, who had stints as assistant manager and manager at Mossley between 2008/10, added the cup run has been one of the highlights of his career.
He explained: “I am not saying it is the highlight, but it is a highlight as what personally motivates me are promotions. And I have been lucky to have had two with Curzon taking them from Evo Stik League, first division north to National League North.
“The FA Cup is a bonus and to experience one cup run and take on a League club is something I have always wanted to do.
“I came close to reaching the first round a couple of times as a player at Droylsden so it some respects it is a relief.”
In fact Flanagan has had a 22-year-wait in management, mainly as a No 2, as he had spells at Woodley Sports, Winsford, Woodley again, Mossley before arriving at Curzon where he is in his sixth season as manager.
He continued: “I was assistant at Mossley to Chris Willcock but, when he left to become assistant to Benny Phillips at Stalybridge, I became manager for half a season.
“Mossley weren’t in a good position and I managed to turn round their fortunes, but I left as I had my own business fitting and designing kitchens, and I couldn’t run that and be a football manager.
“It is easier being an assistant but being manager at Mossley whetted my appetite having more responsibility.
“And that is why I later applied for the manager’s job at Curzon.”
Indeed, in 24 games in charge of the Lilywhites, Flanagan won 13 and drew five games lifting the side from 16th to seventh place.
Flanagan, who no longer has his own business, is one of the longest-serving managers in non-league and is in his sixth season at Curzon. The FA Cup first-round tie against Herefordshire side Westfields was his 300th game in charge of the Nash.
He admitted it is tough for clubs at Evo Stik League level to reach the first round of the FA Cup because of the number of rounds they have to play and also against higher league opponents.
Curzon’s route to the second round has taken them past Consett, Bedworth, York City and Westfields.
“We have been lucky as we have only played one team from a higher level so far, York City who were a Football League club until last season. We drew at York and beat them at home,” he said.
The cup run has already made Curzon around £40,000 in prize money and they will receive £75,000 for having their tie against AFC Wimbledon televised live.
Flanagan said: “It is a massive amount of money for a club like ourselves, especially as we need to replace our 3G training pitch that has been down for 10 years.
“We will be able to apply for grants as it is used by the community, but we will still have to find £100,000 ourselves.
“We would have been struggling to find that amount of money had it not been for the cup run which could not have come at a better time.
“The 3G pitch is one of the club’s biggest earners so we need to have it.”
Curzon, who are lucky to attract crowds of 400, are punching well above their weight in National League North against clubs like AFC Fylde, Harrogate, Stockport County, Salford City and FC United who all have far more financial clout.
Flanagan, who as a player appeared for Woodley Sports, Stockport County, Hyde, Stalybridge and Droylsden, said: “I would think we have the lowest budget in our league by some length.
“We don’t have a big budget or a benefactor as other clubs have, but we have excellent facilities and a smashing group of players.
“The great thing us that a lot of the lads have been with us since we were playing two levels down and the have developed with us. It has not been a case of ripping up the side and starting again as we have gone higher.”
Flanagan admitted he was not popular at Mossley when he signed Watson, Rowney and Hampson.
“It was not a case of taking players who had been at the club for a long time. It was Chris and myself who brought them to Mossley,” he explained.
As for AFC Wimbledon, Flanagan has scouted them, but is not paying too much attention to them.
He said: “I have watched them, but their form is irrelevant and the less I look at them the better.
“I am not underestimating them or over-estimating them. We have a chance as we saw in the first round when Brackley, from our division, beat League One side Gillingham.
“It will be difficult and we will be underdogs, but it will be a potential banana skin and we have a group of lads capable of winning the game.”
Curzon reached the second round in 2008 when they beat League side Exeter City before losing in the second round to Conference club Kidderminster Harriers. They were managed by Gary Lowe at that time.