CO-ASSISTANT manager Chris Farrell believes Blackfield & Langley possess a stronger squad than the Bournemouth Poppies team he helped to the FA Vase quarter-finals last season.
But, without a slice of luck to go with their talent, Farrell believes that Blackfield – along with the Sydenhams League’s five other third round survivors – will have their work cut out to fend off the might of the Midlands and the North.
Farrell, who played alongside a young Stan Collymore for Midlands outfit Blackford, was Ken Vaughan’s right-hand man last term as the Poppies defied the odds by dumping out Royston Town and Billingham Synthonia at the national stages before eventually exiting 2-0 to West Auckland Town in the last eight.
Now, as part of the successful management team at Blackfield, he is helping to make history once again as the Watersiders prepare for an all-Wessex clash at GE Hamble tomorrow – their first ever venture into the last 64.
“We’ve got a stronger side at Blackfield than we did at Bournemouth last season, bearing in mind that five or six of those Poppies players are now with us, but we need a bit of luck because of the strength of the northern leagues,” he said.
“I’ve looked at the draw in depth and I don’t think anyone would relish playing Spennymoor, who are worthy favourites.
“Last season Poppies played at home to Royston, who were top of the South Midlands League. They were by far the best side we played during the Vase run, but we beat them 2-1 playing 60 minutes with ten men after Jon Blake was sent off.
“You need that bit of luck.
“Around here we don’t have a Conference National club until up around the M25, but I’m from the Midlands where it’s more competitive above Step 5. There are more players and that makes the northern leagues stronger.
“Any Wessex side is going to face some seriously tough opposition if they’re to emulate what (1992 Vase winners) Wimborne did.
“The odds are good with six Wessex clubs left in the competition but, almost certainly, someone is going to end up in the north-east.
“Realistically you need a favourable draw. What we want is for Spennymoor and the holders Dunston to win tomorrow and then play each other.”
Now based in Poole, Farrell met Blackfield boss Ashley Vickers while scouting for Dorchester.
He was part of the Wimborne set-up when GE Hamble co-manager Dave Lewis was a first-team player and featured for Farrell’s Carlsberg Cup side.
“I like Dave and have a lot of respect for him,” he said.
“We drew 1-1 at Hamble in the league earlier in the season and one thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are no easy Wessex games. You can have all the resources but, at the end of the day, you can be beaten by anyone.
“How that compares with the Northern League, I haven’t a clue, but all you can hope for beyond this stage is a home draw.
“As AFC Totton proved (when they reached the 2007 final), a Vase run completely changes the profile of the club, the financial aspect, everything.
“Blackfield have already banked £24,000 this season from the FA Cup and Vase and I’m really pleased for the people behind the scenes.
“I’ve had a taster of a Vase run with Bournemouth and I want more. We really were that close.”