The FA Cup is known for producing fairytale stories where individuals and teams excel themselves with performances beyond all realms of expectation.
This is true for Stefan Brown, a third-year University of Portsmouth student, whose non-league side AFC Totton burst into the second round of the competition with an 8-1 demolition of Bradford PA. In this game, Brown scored three goals within 15 minutes, to claim the unique record of being the fastest hat-trick scorer as a substitute in the competition’s 140 year history.
His achievement is quite remarkable – especially for a student who plays at semi-professional level. To put it into perspective, the FA Cup is a competition which has been graced by some of the finest footballers to ever play the game, players such as Gianfranco Zola, Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry and David Beckham. Brown has achieved something none of these could.
Brown, who studies Sports Development, was delighted with his performance: “I was happy to score a hat-trick as anyone would be, but when I found out about the record it was surreal. I didn’t know what to think about it – and still don’t – because it’s unlike anything I’ve achieved before. Not many non-league players can say they’re in the FA Cup history books.”
The mood around the ground was equally euphoric: “Everyone was buzzing for me. They were all just as surprised as I was.” The game also brought about other records: Totton secured the biggest win of the round and in doing so became the first post-war non-league team to score eight goals in the main FA Cup.
It was AFC Totton’s first time in the main cup, an achievement in itself as they had to win four qualification rounds to get there. Having qualified from the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One last season, they are now leading the South and West Premier League.
Totton host League Two side Bristol Rovers in the second round on Sunday 4th December in a game that will be shown live on ITV. Brown explained the team’s mood ahead of the game: “Everyone is so excited to play in that next game that they’re hardly thinking about our league game in between.”
The significance of the match, and the hype surrounding it, is enormous. Brown says, “If we have a really good game on ITV, there’s a chance to turn professional. With the number of people watching and with the exposure created from it, anything can happen.”
The prospect of playing in front of the nation for the Totton players is massive. However, Brown played down his chances of making the starting XI: “We have five very good strikers so there’s no guarantee who will start, and we would all love to start.”
After Brown’s performance on Saturday one would think that there will be pressure on manager Stuart Ritchie to start the first round star.