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Micky Hazard has always enjoyed a special relationship with the FA Cup.
In 1982, he was part of the Tottenham Hotspur team who beat Queens Park Rangers in the final after a replay in front of 92,000 fans at Wembley.
Thirty-four years on, as the unpaid manager of Barnet-based ninth-tier side Hadley, the former midfielder is falling in love with the competition all over again.
Before this season the 134-year-old club, who play in the South Midlands Premier Division, had failed to advance past the preliminary round.
Beat seventh-tier Kings Langley in Saturday’s second qualifying home tie and Hadley, who up until a few weeks ago were sharing a ground and playing in front of fewer than 50 fans, will be two wins from the first round.
“Never mind the first round,” said Hazard, now 56. “The big question is: What do I do when Hadley reach the third round and draw Tottenham at White Hart Lane? I might bring myself out of retirement and come on as an 89th-minute substitute.”
In a Spurs career spanning 170 games, Hazard also won the Uefa Cup under Keith Burkinshaw in 1984. Yet he is as proud of his achievements as a non-league manager as of the medals he won playing alongside Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles.
Since Hazard’s appointment in 2014, Hadley have won the Hertfordshire Charity Shield, achieved their highest league finish and are now enjoying a club-record FA Cup run.
“The fact I don’t get paid makes it more enjoyable in many ways,” Hazard told BBC Sport. “I consider this stage of my footballing life as a hobby.
“I’m fortunate to have a fantastic committee and a wonderful group of human beings as my players, who all play for free.
“When you play for free, you are truly in love with the game. These guys are a pleasure to coach.”
Hazard also played for Chelsea, Portsmouth and Swindon.
But it is Tottenham he calls home. Hazard still works at White Hart Lane on matchdays, entertaining sponsors and giving tours.
It is an arrangement which sometimes clashes with his commitments at Hadley, but Spurs remain Hazard’s first love.
“I worship every moment I’m at White Hart Lane,” he said. “When I became Hadley manager, I made it clear that if a fixture clashed with a Tottenham home game, then I’d be at Spurs.
“The arrangement works because I have a fine coaching team at Hadley.
“The first thing I did when I realised the next round of the FA Cup was on the 17th was check Tottenham’s fixtures. Fortunately they are playing at home on Sunday, so I’ll be able to make both games.”
Hadley have spent around £400,000 to enable the first team to return to their Brickfield Lane facilities after eight seasons playing at Potters Bar Town.
Having entered this season’s FA Cup at the extra preliminary round stage, they have already battled through three rounds and earned £6,425 in prize money. Saturday’s tie is worth a further £4,500.
So, will Hazard show Hadley’s players his FA Cup medal from 1982 to motivate the team before kick-off against seventh-tier Southern League Premier Division side Kings Langley?
“No. I donated my medals to the Tottenham club dentist, who is a Spurs fanatic,” he added. “His whole surgery is a shrine to Tottenham Hotspur.”
‘Celebrations after £30 bonus’
Teams at this stage are still three wins from the first-round draw, yet the players of Ashton Athletic have already celebrated like they have reached the FA Cup final.
They each landed a £30 bonus after beating Mossley 7-2 in the last round – and the dressing room scenes afterwards proved popular viewing on social media.
“A lot of the players are on £15 a week and as some come from Liverpool, Manchester and Widnes, it doesn’t even cover expenses for petrol,” said Ben Kay, joint-manager, player and groundsman at Athletic, who are based in Ashton-in-Makerfield, near Wigan.
“The chairman trebled their wages to £45 for the first qualifying round win – I think that’s the reason they celebrated like they did in the dressing room afterwards.”
The Yellows, who are the last representatives of the North West Counties League and appearing at this stage of the FA Cup for the first time, entertain Halifax, who won the FA Trophy at Wembley in May.
Last season Athletic’s average home attendance was 68.
On Saturday they are expecting a club record attendance of around 900 at Brocstedes Park after Halifax sold out of their initial allocation of 400 tickets. Ashton Athletic’s current record crowd is 202.
Yellows forward Joel Brownhill is the brother of Bristol City midfielder Josh, while Kay was in the same Wigan Athletic squad as Leighton Baines and Arjan de Zeeuw under Paul Jewell in 2001-02.
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