PAUL Stretford may be about to watch history he helped create overtaken.

However, if that proves to be the case, there will be no man prouder to see it happen.

Warrington Rylands have already equalled their longest ever run in the FA Vase, with the competition about to resume after a lengthy, Covid-enforced break.

Should they win their fourth round proper tie at County Durham side Shildon today, they will eclipse the mark set in the 1983-84 season when Stretford was in the Rylands team.

That run ended controversially – they beat Rainworth Miners Welfare in the last 32 in front of a bumper Gorsey Lane crowd, but the pitch was found to be marginally too short.

A replay away from home was ordered, which Blues lost 1-0.

Now the club's owner, Stretford says the current crop deserve to be held in equally high esteem.

"It's fantastic and I’m so proud of them," he said.

"I’m hoping they go beyond our team from 83-84 and set their own history because they deserve it.

"The spirit is very similar to what we had. This group are a better set of players in their individual position, but we certainly were a match in terms of our never-say-die attitude.

"In my time as a player when we were involved in it, there was an outcome that perhaps wasn’t right but the memories from that run and the camaraderie between the players was incredible.

"The Rainworth game at home – we had an enormous crowd that day. I think we had more than 1,000 people watching.

"Hopefully, we will get to a point where we can play one of these games in front of a big crowd at Gorsey Lane, which would be really special."

Paul Stretford

Paul Stretford

With their North West Counties League season having been curtailed due to the pandemic, Dave McNabb's side's continued participation in the Vase means they are among the lucky few semi-professional teams to be back on the pitch.

That brings its challenges, both on and off the field.

"We’ve had quite a lot of trips to the north east – I think this will be our third in cup competitions – so we’ve had tough games.

"We’ve predominantly been drawn away, which does present it difficulties.

"We’re going into a cup competition which could be over in this round, and that would be season over. That’s just the reality of it.

"If not, we go to the next week and we’re back in that same position again and so on.

"What it means is as a club, we’ve had to switch everything back on.

"We can only do one-to-one training starting next week then we move to a team environment as we get closer to the game.

"It’s not enough for players who have been in close-season much longer than they would be normally. That’s a challenge.

"Then financially, it’s a challenge because we’re going to have coach bills, paying the players and coaches, we need to get our own pitch ready in case we go through and are drawn at home.

"That has a cost factor for it, especially with no crowds and food and beverage sales receipts."

Stretford's last point is pertinent – the current understanding is that matches will have to be played behind closed doors for most of what remains of the tournament.

The earliest date crowds could be allowed under current plans to ease Covid restrictions is May 17, which would be in time for the final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 22.

Warrington Town reached the FA Vase final back in 1987, losing 3-2 to St Helens Town, so could Rylands go one better?

"I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was in my mind," Stretford said.

"In this year of all years, to have a representative from the town back at Wembley in the FA Vase would be great for our local community.

"The realist in me says let’s get to the quarter-finals, then we would be two games away. I’ll allow myself to be a little more ebullient about it then."

Today's game kicks off at 12.30pm