The Irishman out to help Slough Town reach the FA Cup third round for the first time in 127 years
By Damian Dolan
Kevin McGoldrick has just about seen it all in his 32 years as sports therapist at Slough Town FC, that is apart from seeing his beloved Rebels reach the third round of the FA Cup.
But that long wait could be about to end on Monday night, as the Southern Premier Division outfit go for cup glory against League One Rochdale at Arbour Park.
A game being shown live on BT Sport. After battling their way through four qualifying rounds and thrashing Gainsborough Trinity in the first round proper, just 90 minutes now separates Slough (nicknamed the Rebels) from reaching the coveted third round and with it a possible crack at the likes of Man City, Man United, Chelsea and Tottenham.
While FA Cup fever has descended upon the Berkshire town made infamous as the setting for Ricky Gervais’ hit tv comedy series The Office, McGoldrick has been here before, on the cusp of the third round.
His first game with the club was in December 1985 when Slough took Leyton Orient to a replay in their second round FA Cup clash, before valiantly going down 3-2.
The club reached the second round again the following season, only to lose out to Swansea and again in 2004/05 when they disposed of Walsall only to be knocked out by Yeading.
“When you’re young and naive you think it’s probably going to be like that every season, but you quickly learn that FA Cup opportunities come along fleetingly and not very often,” said McGoldrick.
“For a club likes ours, when you start in the qualifying rounds it really does put it into perspective, compared to Premier League clubs who come in at the third round stage. If they win five games they’re in the final.”
Monday night will be just the seventh time in the club’s 127-year history that it’s graced the FA Cup second round, but even though four levels separate them from Rochdale in the league pyramid, McGoldrick is hoping that this could finally be the year they make the breakthrough.
“It’s a great opportunity for the club to show that it can stage a game like that against a professional club, so we’re looking forward to it,” said McGoldrick, who was born to a Sligo father and a Cork mother, and lives in Northolt, west London.
Following their first round exploits, the BBC chose Slough Town’s clubhouse from which to broadcast the second round draw. The excitement has been slowly building towards Monday ever since.
“You only have to be in and around the club over the last few weeks and months to realise the impact that the FA cup has on clubs like ours. I’m sure the town will be buzzing when we play Rochdale – it’s the best knock-out cup competition in the world,” he added.
For a club like Slough Town, it’s a chance to “put on all of its finery”, hog the limelight and pocket some much needed revenue, but the real prize could be awaiting just around the corner in the third round draw, if they can get there.
“The benefits of reaching the third round are immeasurable. Not many clubs at our level in recent years have reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup,” said McGoldrick.
“For the stability of the club it’s huge. The financial benefits mean that the club would be stable for a couple of years. You can’t put a price on that.
“And from the players’ point of view it’s a chance to put themselves in the spotlight. Most of our players have varying careers (they all have jobs and train twice a week) and one or two of them may have been at academies at professional clubs, but have slipped through the net.
“They now have the opportunity, especially the younger ones, to showcase themselves. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Currently fifth in the Southern Premier Division table, prior to the club’s Tuesday night (28 November) league fixture with Redditch United, the Rebels have every reason to be optimistic that they can provide the giant-killing of the second round.
While they’ve only lost once in their last 16 matches in all competitions, and are unbeaten in the league since 23 September, they’ve been scoring goals for fun.
They hit eight in one game and twice racked up six, as well as producing a remarkable comeback from 4-0 down to beat Merthyr Town 5-4. James Dobson netted the winner in the third minute of injurytime.
“We’re happy with the season so far. We’re a couple of games behind [the league leaders], but we’ve been consistently in the top three or four. It’s there for us at the minute,” said McGoldrick, who in 2016 was recognised for his long-standing service to the club with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Get Berkshire Active Awards.
He’s never had any desire to be anywhere else, even when the club has gone through tough times.
“I’ve grown old with a lot of the people there. They have a hard core of people behind the scenes, and I’ve almost felt a duty to them,” said McGoldrick.
McGoldrick’s pathway into physiotherapy was a far from uncommon one. By his own admission, his playing career was “nothing too grand”, with his interest in physiotherapy triggered when receiving treatment for his own injuries.
“I was struggling to overcome injuries and I mentioned to a physiotherapist [Owen Harris at Wimbledon FC) that I enjoyed that aspect of a football club, and he helped me out,” he said.
He spent three years training at Lilleshall – the FA’s School of Excellence – under the tutorage of Northern Irishman Paddy Armour, who was physio to the Great Britain Rugby League team.
McGoldrick started out with a Sunday league side before moving on to Hillingdon Borough and then Slough Town, where he’s been ever since. On Monday night, he’ll be pitchside, just as he has been for the past 32 years.
“I’ve always had a love of football and still have that. I like the camaraderie of being involved in a team sport and the feeling I play a part. I enjoy the adrenalin of being an important part of the team make-up,” he said.
If Slough Town can finally do it on Monday, and reach the third round for the first time in 127 years, McGoldrick has no hesitation when asked who he’d like to draw out of the hat – Tottenham at Wembley.
All we need now is for the romance of the FA Cup to work its famous magic.
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