Pinxton FC, based in the village of Pinxton just off the M1 J28, play their football in the Central Midlands South. They are consistently - barring a blip 3 seasons ago - placed well above halfway in the league. They finished third last season and are once again tipped to be one of the contenders this term. As far as the FA Vase is concerned their best effort was reaching the Third Round in 2015-16, before going down 4-3 at home to Nuneaton Griff. The game was attended by The Wycombe Wanderer (@RussWWFC) . You can read his account here.
Much as I feel that the FA Vase is a wonderful competition, we were very interested to get the low-down on what it meant to a club such as Pinxton. Would it be seen as a necessary distraction or is the competition embraced by clubs further down the pyramid? I posed the question to Kenny. His reply, "The FA Vase means everything to a small club like Pinxton. This is the non-league FA Cup. We always like an away trip were we can share the bus with fans and family." In one answer epitomising everything that is good about this competition and non-league football at this level. It's not about personal gain. It's not even about personal or, for that matter, team glory. It's about fans, family and the community.
However, the FA Vase has limited prize money despite it being increased in recent years. The early rounds are very closely regionalised, which keeps travel costs down to a minimum and can create some interesting local derbies. I asked Kenny if there came a point, maybe if the team progresses to a less regionlised round, where the competition became an nonviable prospect for smaller clubs but he was having none of that, stating that every game for Pinxton was special.
So, how far could Pinxton realistically hope to progress this year? I loved the response to this question - "A decent return for a club like Pinxton would be 3 or 4 wins, but you never know and we will give every game our best".
That's the joy of the FA Vase, especially at this stage. The Step 7 sides, and even the majority of Step 6 sides, know that they should only, at the very best, expect to progress to the Second or Third Round. However, there is always that hope that this season they will be the 'minnow' who surprises everyone and keeps a run going to who knows what stage.
Having said Pinxton would give every game their best shot, I was reminded that they finished third in the league last season, an improvement of one place on the previous season. So, would, the focus be on promotion this season? Would progress in the Vase be seen as hindrance to this goal and, consequently, would Kenny consider saving players for league games rather than risk injury in a Vase match and reducing their chances of going up?
No such thing in mind from the boss though. "Promotion is our main aim, we have been up there for too many seasons to mention, but we will always play our strongest team in the Vase."
Pinxton's Welfare Ground stadium meets Step 6 requirements, so there would be no problem with them taking a place at that level should they attain promotion.
I was also interested in Kenny's personal thoughts about the FA Vase, especially around the prize money and how far he had managed to progress in the competition as a player. The answer to the latter being not far enough. Pinxton, who Kenny also played for for most of his career, did not enter the Vase until he was already in his 30s. As a result, a 2nd Round appearance was his best return. Maybe he can go further as a manager?
As for the prize money, Kenny's take on this was - "The money is great, we are playing for nothing week in week out so every little helps for us"
The Vase has provided some lasting memories for Kenny. For instance, in Pinxton's first FA Vase adventure in 2010-11, when a last minute free-kick from Kieron Debrower secured a 2-1 win over Bottesford Town. The following season a depleted Pinxton side travelled down to Nottingham to play Dunkirk. With just 12 players in the squad and two 16 year-olds in the side they made the trip back up the M1 with an unexpected but thoroughly deserved 4-1 victory under their belts.
As the draw for the Second Qualifying Round has already been made, I asked Kenny about the possibility of facing his former club, Heanor Town, in the next round. In true managerial style, the answer was that all thoughts would be on Birstall first but, with Heanor being just a few miles away, the prospect of a local derby would make it a special match with plenty of local interest.
Pinxton v Birstall United - Saturday August 31st (3pm KO) at The Welfare Ground, Pinxton, NG16 6LG.