Gavin MacPherson is a man in a privileged position.
The Metropolitan Police FC manager was only appointed in the summer, yet he leads the East Molesey side into their FA Cup First Round match against League Two Newport tomorrow.
After they transferred from the Isthmian Premier League to the Southern League Premiership South as part of a non-league re-structure at the end of last season, the amateur club also faced a budget cut, rising costs and a more difficult travel schedule.
Given this turbulence, long-serving manager Detective Sergeant Jim Cooper resigned. MacPherson – two-decade club man, former Met Police player and assistant manager to Cooper for 14 years – was the natural replacement.
He admitted the club didn’t set any targets for the season other than staying up. So, to be in the First Round Proper for only the fifth time in their history and hosting an established Football League club is little short of miraculous.
“It’s a game changer,” admitted MacPherson. “It would be for any club at our level.”
While the ex-Nottingham Forest player acknowledges chairman Des Flanders may be eyeing up the financial incentives of an FA Cup run – they’ve made £55,000 so far – he takes a different approach.
“Although the prize money involved is substantially increased this season, I like to look at it from the playing side. For these players it’s a fantastic achievement, these guys are a young group carefully pieced together and it’s galvanised us,” he said.
However, he confessed the preparations for the side 77 places above them in the Football League pyramid are exactly the same. He said: “We do our homework and prepare extensively for every team, so we haven’t given Newport any special sort of attention.
“With the media coverage, with all this attention, we have to embrace it. Certainly, it’s a massive change in routine for everyone, I’m trying to shield the players from that – there’s still a football match that’s got to be played.”
MacPherson disclosed his side aren’t planning to sit back and defend. He said: “Our recent results were high-scoring – my heart is going to pack up at some point! However, we are at home and it’s our best chance of progression.
“We’re not coming to make up the numbers and Newport won’t expect that. We need to score goals, so we will look at it defensively, but we won’t take away that park mentality of looking to score goals.”
In 2012, the last time Met Police reached this stage of the Cup, their progression led PC Craig Brown to retire: despite playing in every qualifying round, he was not permitted to take time off to play Crawley Town.
Met Police lost the match 2-1, and lost their last serving policeman too. However, secretary Peter Allen insisted the club had no plans to remove the professional connection.
Allen said: “Obviously it’s a huge fixture for the club. We weren’t on television the last time we were in the first round and now we’ve got a lot of media and TV interest, so the club’s profile is greatly enhanced.”
There are standing tickets for sale now and on the day: £15 for ground entry, £10 for over-65s and £5 for under-16s.
Met Police play Newport County at Imber Court at 3pm tomorrow.