HELSTON Athletic chairman Paul Hendy is delighted about the prospect of his side rubbing shoulders with Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in the FA Cup for the first time this season.

The Blues were accepted into England’s flagship cup competition for the first time ever on Monday after being one of eight South West Peninsula League clubs to be pulled out following a random draw.

They are due to play their first-ever game in the competition on Tuesday, September 1.

In normal circumstances, Steve Massey’s side would have qualified for the FA Cup by virtue of their excellent record of 25 wins from 26 games last season, with entrants from step six of the National League System determined by points per game.

But with the 2019/20 season being suspended in March and later declared null and void amid the coronavirus pandemic, the FA announced that the remaining places available to clubs at step six would be determined by a random draw.

READ MORE: Blues set to make FA Cup debut next month

It left the Blues facing a nervous wait for the results of Monday’s draw, when it was announced that eight of the ten SWPL clubs to apply had secured their place in this season’s competition.

“We did panic a bit when we heard it was going to go to a lottery because of the pandemic,” Hendy said, “but fingers crossed we got in and it’ll be the first time in our history and it coincides nicely with our 125th anniversary.”

Qualification for the oldest national association football competition in the world has been one of Hendy’s main objectives from the outset and dangled that carrot in front of Massey when attempting to lure the former Truro City manager to the club in 2017.

Massey was quick to acknowledge Hendy’s efforts when speaking to the Packet shortly after the announcement was made on Monday.

He said: “I’m thrilled to bits for the club and for Paul really. When I came here, in one of the first conversations we had he brought up wanting to be in the FA Cup, it’s all he’s wanted to do.

“I feel quite emotional to be perfectly honest. I had my fears about it not going to happen. The FA Cup and Helston, [maybe] it’s just not going to happen, I don’t know what we have to do, but that’s great.”

Hendy added: “When we met with him [Massey] first off to see if he’d be interested in coming to Helston we set out our stall and one of our objectives was the FA Cup, and the good thing is we’ve achieved it.

“It’s not just for the football club but it’s also for the community of Helston and the surrounding area as well. It’s a huge achievement for us.”

Hendy is also pleased to see his side contributing to the greater goal of boosting the profile of Cornish football, with his club one of six from the county to compete in the FA Cup this season.

This year will be the first time six Cornish clubs have competed in the tournament since the 2011/12 campaign, while the Blues are also one of 17 clubs to enter this year’s FA Vase – an increase of 11 on only three seasons ago.

“I think the really good thing is we’re all striving to raise the bar,” Hendy said. “We’re all competing with each other, but the main thing is that we’re raising the standard of football within the county.

“We’re leading the pack a little bit down west and hopefully some other clubs will want to put their hat in the ring next year. I’m guessing Mousehole and Porthleven and a few others will now try to emulate what we’ve achieved this year and full marks to them for that.

“We’re delighted that we’re helping football within Cornwall and with other clubs in raising the overall standard within the county.”

Helston will discover their first-ever opponents in the FA Cup when the draw for the extra preliminary round is made on Tuesday, August 18.

Hendy and Massey are both hoping for a home draw, but with spectators currently not allowed to attend matches until further notice, Hendy is hoping that the FA’s resubmission of a proposal to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport allowing spectators is approved in time for the tie.

“Fingers crossed that the FA do look at the spectator thing again,” he said. “We’re fully supportive of what they’re having to do. It’s not them that are making the rules, it’s the Government and I know that they’ve been trying to make some cases to them.

“We very much hope that we can have a home game with a good crowd to kick off our first-ever appearance in the FA Cup. It’ll be great and I know everyone I’ve spoken to is excited.”