After 50 years in management, Sammy Donnelly has a soft spot for all his old teams.

But the veteran non-league boss has special memories of the Worthing side he took to the first round proper of the FA Cup.

Until now, the Rebels had not reached that stage since an attack-minded, all-guns-blazing side put together by Donnelly played Rotherham at Millmoor in 1999.

That changes when Adam Hinshelwood’s men visit National League north outfit Alfreton.

To Donnelly and many who played in or watched that cup run of 24 years ago, it feels almost like last week.

They came through three replays, two of them at home and then the shock 1-0 win at Dover, to clinch their place against a Millers side who were top of the fourth tier.

Donnelly said: “Chippenham played in a higher division but we drew with them away and beat them at Worthing.

“We played at home to Dover and they could have beaten us 5-0 on the day.

“We only had one shot from what I recall. That was Ben Carrington and he equalised.

“The draw was made straight after the game and we knew we had Rotherham away.

“I don’t think anybody gave us any hope in the replay at Dover because they were second or third in what is now the National League.

“They dominated most of the game but my goalkeeper (Lee Bray) was outstanding, then Tony Holden went on and his first shot sales over the goalkeeper for the winner.

“What we had at the time was a great group of players, unbelievable team spirit and togetherness and a will to win.

“I played three up front – Marc Rice, Ben Carrington and Simon Funnell.

“We had three at the back, four in midfield and three up top.

“You get a lot of talk about systems these days but we were doing it back then.

“They were good as individuals as well as a team. Simon Funnell and Ben Carrington could change a game for you.”

Rebels’ team included identical twins Miles and Guy Rutherford, which could confuse teams and even referees at times.

Lee Cox was outstanding at the back at Rotherham alongside Simon James (Damian Webber was to sign later in the season).

Mark Knee scurried up and down the left while midfield was built around Paul Kennett and Mark Burt (“a warrior for me,” said Donnelly).

Lee Weston, Paul Thomas and Adie Miles were also key members of the squad.

Worthing travelled on Friday, had a Saturday night out and did not come home until Sunday.

Donnelly said: “We embraced the occasion. They don’t happen too often.

"We tried to match up with them and get as close as we could and we put up a really good show.”

Carrington went close with an early volley but Rotherham edged ahead through Steve Thompson on the half-hour before completing a 3-0 win with two late strikes.

Donnelly became good friends with opposite number Ronnie Moore, who brought Rotherham to Woodside Road for a friendly in the following pre-season.

The cup run was plotted from Sammy’s Diner, the cafe he ran in Shoreham.

Donnelly, whose 50th anniversary was recognised by the FA, said: “I’ve enjoyed every club I’ve been at but I had a good few years at Worthing.

“Hinsh is doing a great job there and they have got Nicky Wheeler, who played for me at Ringmer.

“The supporters at Worthing are tremendous.

“And if I could give a special mention to Matt Major (who died this year). We were great friends.”

Donnelly is now in charge at Mile Oak and said: “It is a little bit of a challenge but I’ve had challenges all my life.

“I’ve enjoyed everything and I am still enjoying it.”