Where have all the giant killers gone?
Not so long ago, Sutton United and Lincoln City we're on top of the footballing world. So where are they now?
Everybody remembers the big shocks of the FA Cup. Wrexham over Arsenal, Hereford over Newcastle, or even the Ceefax striker, Roy Essandoh scoring the winning goal for Wycombe against Leicester.
In 2017, there were two such unexpected FA Cup runs courtesy of non-league sides Lincoln City and Sutton United, who reached the fifth round and quarterfinals of the tournament respectively.
What never seems to be discussed though, is the long future of these teams long after their cup run is over. The hype surrounding the match disappears, and the teams once again return to the comfort of their lower tiered leagues.
Immediately after Hereford’s 1972 FA Cup victory, they achieved promotion in back to back seasons to move from the conference to the old division three. However, that success was not sustained as they yo-yo’d between the Conference and the bottom tier of the English Football League until the club ultimately dissolved in 2014.
A similar situation happened to Wrexham after their victory in 1992. They saw an immediate bump as they went up two divisions in two years, but the team eventually found their way back to the conference, where they have been since 2008.
The challenge for both Sutton and Lincoln is to sustain long term success for their club. Lincoln has already followed in the footsteps of their giant killing predecessors by being promoted to the League two for next season.
Although it is much too early to tell what the future holds for these two clubs, there are long term plans. Councillor Simon Wales, who represents the constituency of West Sutton, was more than happy to share the plan’s for Sutton’s future.
“It means an awful lot [to the club] because the crowds have gone up that’s generally increases the prosperity for the club and that means they do more things for the community locally,” said Mr. Wales.
“I think the main effect is going to be financial. I mean this cup run is about one million pounds which means long awaited improvements to the ground can be made like the access and the parking.”
Any amount of additional income for non-league sides are significant. It is important to remember that these clubs are not financed like Premier League or even Championship teams. Instead of worrying about transfer budgets, and loan spells, these small clubs are more worried about day to day operations.
Mr. Wales said: “It’s run on a shoestring, it very much is. I mean if you go in the building you can see it’s a bit ramshackle, it’s been decorated by someone with a pot of paint. Although Arsene Wenger was very sweet about it because he said it was good for Arsenal to play in that sort of environment.”
The importance of finances don’t go unnoticed by fans either. Long time Sutton fan Damian Lewis understood the importance of the FA Cup income. “This is not a cheap game as you know, and we can only go onwards and upwards from here. It builds a great basis for next season to actually push for promotion.”
However, no matter what may happen to Sutton, even the smallest of improvements go a long way for the club as supporter Johnny Lowery noted.
“90% of those people probably lose interest again but it’s about getting that 10% back. Even an increase of 100 people on top of that would be good.”
There may be great uncertainty for the future of Lincoln City and Sutton United, but it is all part of being a non-league side. Even in times of instability, they still have the unbridled support and eternal optimism from fans and local representatives like Mr. Wales.
“Well if that ball that had hit the crossbar had actually gone into the goal to make it 2-1 then who knows!”
Like Wrexham and Hereford, these teams may never see the same success that they had in 2017, but they will always remember the day, when they were football giants.