The magnitude of a Pontefract Collieries victory against FC Halifax Town in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round showdown would be so great that their most experienced player Gavin Rothery would rank it as one of his greatest moments.
An expected sell-out crowd of 1500 people will cram into Beechnut Lane for the biggest game in Pontefract’s history on Saturday and the odds are stacked against the Colls as Pete Wild’s Halifax are three leagues higher and are third in the National League
Former Guiseley midfielder Rothery, whose career began in the Leeds United youth ranks, knows just how special a Ponte victory win would be.
“I’ll probably get a few pelters from the lads for this but one of my best achievements was when I played for England under 19s and scored on my debut against Poland,” Colls player/coach Rothery told Non League Yorkshire.
“To represent my country was something special and the group of players (such as Theo Walcott, Joe Hart and Micah Richards) I played with were all top top players and all went onto have good careers higher up.
“Making my league debut for Carlisle in League One, against Huddersfield at their stadium, sticks out as well.
“Getting to third round with Barrow and playing at Sunderland and coming on in front of 30,000 is up there.
“Winning promotion with Guiseley and getting into the Conference National was a really special day.
“I’ve had a few but this with Ponte would be right up there.
“It is a massive game and for me it is right up because how much of an underdog we are.
“I think it would be a massive upset (if we win) as we’re three leagues below.
“You look at teams beating a team one-or-two leagues above, to beat a team three leagues above and and who are doing well in their league, it would be a massive upset.
“But it is a game of football and anything is possible on the day but hopefully we can start well and see where the game takes us.
“Us been the home team makes it more balanced whereas if we had been away on their pitch and in front of their fanbase, it would be a lot more in favour of them.”
The Colls have dispatched Goole AFC, Barnoldswick Town, Squires Gate and Handsworth so far in the FA Cup.
The 6-0 demolition of Handsworth in the last round was attended by almost 500 people – with plenty from the club’s juniors section – and those present created a wall of noise.
So with the Halifax tie being a sell-out, Rothery admits the experience will be something else and could be hugely beneficial to underdogs Ponte.
“Hopefully it will be a cup final atmosphere,” he said.
“Even in the last FA Cup game we had all the juniors there and the kids leading us out onto the pitch which was a great experience for them.
“Whatever they do (this time), whether its flags or the Champions League style flag in the middle of the park, it just creates more of an atmosphere and makes it better for the players to play in.
“It makes it a better occasion for the fans and the kids as well and it is something to remember.
“Looking at the atmosphere we had for the Handsworth, there was only 400 there and it made such a difference just playing in front of those extra few hundred fans.
“To think we’re hopefully going to have three times that amount, it is going to be amazing for the club and it is going to be a really special day.
“Hopefully (home advantage) will give us that extra edge and give us that added bonus and bit of help we need.
“Having the fans behind us and close and tight to the pitch makes it a unique atmosphere.
“Not many clubs have that atmosphere now and the terraces are further away from the pitch.
“At Ponte you can get right up to the barriers so it will be a real cup tie.”
The fact giants such as Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City could await the Colls in the first round proper if Halifax are victims of a scalp under-lines the gravity of Craig Rouse’s side’s fantastic run.
“The lads have been outstanding in every round of the FA Cup to get us to this stage,” Rothery said.
“Even though we haven’t had the right results in the league, in the last couple of weeks you’re seeing us get up to full fitness and starting to gel as a team and looking more solid.
“The boys must take a lot of credit from their performances, especially the Handsworth game.
“To play like we did and score six and win as comfortably as we did with all the pressure on us, the lads take great credit.
“We have a really tight knit group and everyone gets on together and that team spirit is starting to pull through.”
At 34, Rothery is one of the elder statesmen of the Colls side and he knows the occasion could be his last hurrah in a major game.
“Potentially, it could be, I’m not getting any younger as you’ve kind of mentioned,” he said.
“It could be the last time I get to this round and play in front of a decent-sized crowd.
“It is a game I want to make sure I perform as well as I can and we do the best we can as a team.
“I’ve still hopefully got a couple of years left in me but I’m not going to have too many days like the one against Halifax so it is something nice at this stage in my career.”
Rothery will see the legacy from the cup run as he works full-time in the club’s education and academy departments.
It is a job that has helped him grow fond of the club.
“I’ve been working at the club for a couple of years now and I’ve been involved in the academy setup educating and teaching the boys who come through,” he said.
“I love it here.
“I have been at a few clubs for a period of time.
“I was at Guiseley for six years so I still have a real attachment from my time there.
“I was at Leeds for a long time as well.
“But with Ponte I literally live at the club now!
“I spend a lot of time here so there is a real attachment and it is obviously a club I am proud to be at as well.”
Rothery will witness the daily improvements to the ever-improving facilities but what he also hopes is the Halifax tie helps grow Ponte’s fan-base.
“I think it puts you on the map because it is the FA Cup and because we’re playing a team the size of Halifax,” he said.
“Hopefully it will bring people down and inform people of where we are and what we do as a club.
“Hopefully it can be a day where people come down and they’ll keep coming back and watch us more often.”