Reigate Priory Football Club chairman Ray Connolly says the club are “really, really proud” as the club prepare to host the Generation Cup next month.
And 150 years on from the FA Cup’s inaugural season, nine of the founder clubs, including Reigate Priory, are coming together to commemorate the anniversary.
During the Generation Cup, teams will play in three round robins before a final at St George’s Park, home of the England football team, in March next year.
To maintain a level playing field, in a tournament featuring Premier League Crystal Palace and National League Maidenhead United, teams must have no more than five players under forty years of age on the pitch at any time. As well as this there must be three players over fifty.
“I’m always amazed by the importance of the FA Cup to the kids and young men as they grow up,” said Ray Connolly, chairman of Reigate Priory FC and one of the main organisers for the event. “They live and breathe it and they’re really, really proud to be taking part in it.”
With the first round of the tournament taking place over two weeks, Priory will play host Civil Service, Royal Engineers, Clapham Rovers, The Wanderers and Upton Park on Sunday November 7 2021.
Before that however Hitchin Town, Crystal Palace and Maidenhead United will play the first set of games on Sunday, October 31. One of the main talking points of the event is the inclusion of Crystal Palace and their legends who will be taking part. With a combined 832 Palace appearances, their squad will boast the quartet of Julian Speroni, Darren Ambrose, and ex-internationals Andy Johnson and Eddie McGoldrick.
“We’ve taken a different stance to others, we aren’t including any semi-professionals,” continued Connolly. “We’re only playing people who have been involved in the club over the years. You’ve got an old man like me at 69, but I will be playing.
“Crystal Palace, which is not the original one, although they like to pretend it is, have got the professionals but fortunately they won’t be playing us. “I’m sure some of the other teams, Wanderers and Upton Park, who we’ll be playing will have some ex-professionals, but we haven’t gone down that route.
Despite the event celebrating the FA Cup’s 150th anniversary, the FA itself had minimal input in creating the tournament. “Whatever we’ve done, it’s not been with help from the FA. We’ve told them we’re doing it and they’ve given us clearance to do it, but that’s it.
“Truthfully, it was one man from Upton Park and myself. We discussed it and decided we would offer the venues free of charge. Hitchin Town then got involved and offered their ground for the first round of games. “From there, each team that wins their round robin will go up to St George’s Park and the winner will win the cup. “We’re hopeful of a really good turnout and we’ll make the day as good as we can.”