IT’S been a long time coming and if I’m honest I didn’t expect to write this for some time yet but here it goes: it’s FA Cup first round weekend and we’re still in it.

It’s amazing to think over the course of a nine-month season, one game can end up having such prominence but as we have come to discover over the last few weeks during our run in the cup, it really can make huge difference for a non-league club. The FA Cup has the potential of being transformational for a club like ours.

Ahead of Saturday’s game at Walsall, I’ve been casting my mind back to the past. I’ve been thinking about all the times when we were the league club and we hosted non-league clubs in the early rounds of the cup. For us back then, those games were more transactional than inspirational. They were a means to an end. We entered the first round of the cup with the sole intention of making it to the third round where the hope would be a money-spinning tie against one of the Premier League big boys.

For all our opponents back then, it was something much more significant. For them, their sole intention was to get to the first round. Darlo were their Manchester United. There would be a couple of hundred highly enthusiastic fans in the West stand enjoying their big day out. Inevitably, regardless of how poor we were in any given season, we would ease past our non-league opposition. Minimum fuss, in the bag for the round two draw. We took so much for granted back then.

Now, we’re the minnows. We’ve seen the treacherous journey those teams faced just to make it to Feethams or the Arena. We’ve finally made it and, with a far greater appreciation of what getting to the first round actually means, we can enjoy our big day out. Even for a National League North side, getting to the first round of the cup is something akin to migrating African beasts having to cross multiple crocodile-infested rivers. It is the kind of survival story that would float David Attenborough’s boat.

When the first round draw was made, away to Walsall really didn’t get my motor going. I wanted a home tie. Didn’t we all? If you couldn’t have a home tie, there were a few big fish swimming in the first round pool. Sadly, Walsall didn’t really fit into that category. Since the draw, I’ve warmed to the tie.

Given we would all love to see our club back in the Football League, a trip to one of our regular foes allows for some further nostalgia. I’ve got around a hundred programmes from away games from the 2000s. The last time I went through them a couple of years ago, I struggled to remember a fair few of the games. They simply didn’t stand out. The games at Walsall were no different. I think I’ve been to the Bescot twice. It would have been three times but I seem to vaguely remember a late postponement. Mediocrity can have that effect. Ask me about our trips to Ossett Town and I’d be all over it like a rash.

I’m hoping this Saturday’s trip will give me a more prominent memory of a trip to Walsall. We don’t need to win – let’s face it, regardless of their form it would be a big ask – but let’s put in a decent performance. Let’s be plucky. Let’s get a big following down there and project a good image of our football club. Let’s have a great day out – win, lose or draw - and make sure the headlines are about what happened on the pitch. Let’s make the sort of memories that are easier to recount than mundane forth division games. Let’s use this game as a catalyst for the continued development of our club.