Chorley FC, a club that plays in the sixth tier of English soccer, has advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in its 138-year history. It will host Premier League opponent Wolverhampton on Friday.
Chorley, based about 25 miles northwest of Manchester, got to this point with a 2-0 upset of second-tier Derby County on Jan. 9, inspiring its latest singalong of the British crooner’s hit.
The furthest the Magpies had previously advanced in the FA Cup was the second round, in 1986 and 1990. The victory that booked the first trip to the second round was not lost on Chorley’s current manager — who is also an elementary school principal.
“There’s a bit of history because in 1986 Chorley played against Wolves at [Burnden Park] and beat them 3-nil, so we just need to do that again,” Jamie Vermiglio told BBC Sport.
“That’s what we really wanted, Premier League opposition,” Vermiglio added of facing Wolverhampton.
As David prepares for Goliath, he may draw lessons from a more immediate past.
A total of 736 clubs from England and Wales entered this year’s FA Cup, the 140th, which opens with amateur and semiprofessional teams playing in preliminary rounds. Coming from a lower tier, Chorley had to win two qualifying matches just to reach the first round of the tournament proper, which features 124 teams. Clubs from the top two levels of English soccer, the Premier League and the Football League Championship, are given passes to the 64-team third round.
Chorley defeated third-tier clubs Wigan Athletic and Peterborough United in the first two rounds in November. Its biggest victory came Jan. 9, though Derby County was forced to play without its entire first-team unit and Coach Wayne Rooney, the legendary former Manchester United (and D.C. United) player, because of a coronavirus outbreak.
“This is just unbelievable,” Chorley assistant coach Andy Preece told BBC Sport. “Remember, this is a pretty fresh squad. There’s only four players that we had last year. Every other player is new this year. … It’s hard to get squads like that together where everybody gets on and everybody’s pulling in the same direction; if they’re left out, they’re still wanting the team to win and they’re hungry. It doesn’t happen very often, and it won’t have happened very often in my career.”
It did happen in Preece’s playing career, though.
In the third round of the 1994 FA Cup, third-tier Stockport County lined up for a free kick, tied 1-1 in the 75th minute with Premier League welterweight Queens Park Rangers. Preece maneuvered toward the ball as it floated toward him, then rifled it into the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
Preece has emphasized the importance of team chemistry in interviews about his team’s current success. He said the team needed a song “that was special to us that everybody knew” to help develop that connection. “It happened to be that Adele song.”
“It’s just great to share something like that at the end of the game, great for camaraderie. You need that togetherness if you’re going to win big games. When we got promoted, had big cups wins, it’s always been that one.”
Defender Scott Leather told LancsLive, a local news outlet, the song has been a postgame tradition since he joined the club in 2016. He said their table-pounding elevates their renditions, which have since attracted the singer’s attention, into something more upbeat.
“Ever since I’ve been here that’s what it’s been, and whenever we’ve won, that’s what we’ve sung,” he said. “It’s not the usual tune that teams will sing after a win, but it’s a bit of a belter, to be fair, isn’t it?”
Players hope to both replicate and rewrite history against Wolves on Friday. If they win, it means they get to keep playing — and singing.