Just in case Steve Thompson, managing director of League Two strugglers Dagenham and Redbridge, needed any reminding of the fuss surrounding tomorrow’s FA Cup third round clash at Premier League Everton, he has found it in the most unconventional of settings.
“The supporters I speak to everyday are buzzing, absolutely buzzing,” he told City A.M. “I’ve been to a funeral today and people were asking each other what time train they’re on because they’re all going. The funeral was conducted by our principal club sponsor -- a funeral director -- and he’s got a party of 20 going up.”
The glamour tie represents an historic occasion for the travelling hordes from east London – 1,800 tickets had been sold as of yesterday – while the FA Cup inevitably provides the mechanism for smaller clubs to boost their long-term prosperity.
Dagenham and Redbridge, whose annual turnover is between £2.5m and £3m, are set to pocket in the region of £100,000 from their Goodison Park sojourn, notwithstanding the additional £67,500 in prize money should they slay their top-flight rivals.
Money talks and the bottom line for the Daggers, who currently lie 22nd in League Two, one place and two points clear of the relegation zone, is simple. The luck of the FA Cup draw could prove their salvation from relegation and National League obscurity.
“Our gate receipts are about £600,000 so we’re getting a sixth of our total gate receipts for the year out of one game,” added Thompson, who has been involved at the club in its various guises for over 30 years.
“Our average player wage is between £30,000 and £40,000 a year so an extra £100,000 means you can bring in an extra two players, and two good players. More importantly, it means we can bring in a couple of loan players to boost our chances of staying up.
“We’re a members’ club so there is no owner here. We haven’t got anyone putting their hand in their pocket to make up the difference. What we earn is what we spend. If we don’t earn it, we can’t spend it.
“We’ve now earned a little more bit so we can spend a little bit more. It could be the difference between staying in the Football League and not.”
The mystique of multi-million pound television contracts and record-breaking profitability of Premier League clubs inevitably gives way to to a more frugal economic approach as the football pyramid is descended. Dagenham and Redbridge are no exception.
“It’s tough. We look at every penny that is being spent. We look at different options to save money. We look at overnight stays for matches or whether it’s cheaper to go up on the day, or whether we should be travelling by train,” said Thompson.
“Everything is taken into consideration. If the chief steward says he needs an extra four stewards on a matchday because we’re playing a bigger side or we’ve got a police report saying some unsavoury people are turning up, I’ll ask him to justify it.
“You can be classed as being a bit mean but I’d rather do that than not be able to pay the bills at the end of the month.”
While Thompson cites their 2010 League Two play-off final victory over Rotherham as the biggest match in the club’s history, he insists tomorrow’s is the most captivating, while two results -- a win or draw -- would leave him in raptures.
“If we were to get a draw at Everton, we would be guaranteed to have television cameras at the replay, surely,” he added. “That’s £72,000 and we’d have a 6,000 capacity crowd. It would be fantastic.”