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Southall FC hoping to emulate FA Vase heroes of 1986

The finalists of 31 years ago take on Exmouth in the fifth round today

We're through: Southall celebrate victory over Bradford Town in the last round

Even if their FA Vase journey comes to an end this Sunday, Southall FC feel a return to the glory days is not far off.

When they take on Exmouth FC in the last 16 at Hanwell Town (kick off 3pm), it will be the furthest they have gone in the competition since reaching the final at Wembley Stadium under Gordon Bartlett in 1986.

Since then there have been many twists and turns, with the club coming back the dead following financial irregularities a decade ago, and working their way back from as low down as Division One of the Middlesex County League.

Caught knapping: Southall keeper Michael Power-Simpson denies Knaphill striker Danny Taylor in the third round

It has also been more than a quarter of a century since they have had somewhere to call home, entering into a variety of groundshares since losing their Western Road ground, and despite being happy at Hanwell, they are desperate to have their own digs again.

Club vice-chair Sanjeev Sharma said: “These are very exciting times. We have been talking to old Southall supporters from the 1980s and even before that, when it was a successful side, and we also have Will Holland, the son of Rob Holland, who played in the 1986 final, playing for us.

“We will be playing a team from a higher level again, but we've done so in all the previous rounds and won. Even if we don't make it through, we really feel we have turned the corner after some lean years for the club.

Experience: New signing like Craige Tomkins have been Southern League regulars

“We are trying to get the Southall community interested in their football team once more. We want to reintroduce a youth section and eventually build our own home in Southall. Hanwell have been immense, but we have to think of our future.”

Central to the turnaround has been former AFC Hayes and North Greenford United manager Paul Palmer, who has put together a team bristling with experience. The likes of Craige Tomkins, Anthony Page, Adam Louth, Max Howell, Liam Hind, Kurtney Brooks, Ryan Debattista, Garry Senior and Michael Power-Simpson have all played in the Southern League.

Sharma added: “Paul has put together a strong side. He took over in January last year when we were staring relegation in the face, guided us to finish comfortably in 12th, and we are currently in fifth place as well as in the League Cup quarter-finals.”

The gaffer: Paul Palmer
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