THE streets and shopping centres of Farnborough will have an empty, lonely feeling about them come 3pm Saturday as the people of the town celebrate their football team's finest hour.
Over 6,000 fans will be leaving the town behind and making their way to north London to cheer on their minnows in THE most magical FA Cup tie in living memory.
Farnborough Town — tenth in the Conference table -—against Arsenal — Premiership champions, FA holders and arguably, the best team in Europe at present. It doesn't get any better than that.
It's hard to believe that when Farnborough Town kicked their first ball in league football 34 years ago at the modest Queens Road ground in North Camp, Saturday's opponents had already won the league championship seven times, lifted the FA Cup on three occasions and conquered Europe in the Fairs Cup.
That gives some indication as to the "Mount Everest" task that Graham Westley and his men face this Saturday, but the gap is shortening, and such is the magic of the cup, who's to say the boys won't walk out of Highbury with heads held high.
Many people don't give Boro a prayer of producing the biggest ever FA Cup shock in Arsenal's own back yard, but one thing is for sure, those 6,000 supporters crammed into the Clock End of the Highbury Stadium will be right behind the boys from the first whistle to the last.
Leisurewear Shop workers have had to re-order another 200 replica shirts, such is the demand, while the new "Thierry Who?" memorabilia shirts and club scarves have also enjoyed a roaring trade.
The fans, who will travel to Highbury on either one of the 19 Supporter's Club coaches, or by train, have a carnival-type atmosphere planned with red and white balloons, ticker-tape and flags ready to welcome the boys onto the pitch.
The bookies have never known a match like it - indeed Ladbrokes have even introduced a handicap betting system giving Boro backers more of a chance of winning.
Ladbrokes will pay out 11/8 on Farnborough winning with a four-goal head-start, while the whole Arsenal team, bar Pascal Cygan, have shorter odds of scoring the first goal than Boro's favourite, Rocky Baptiste, at 25/1.
The most backed scoreline as the News went to press on Wednesday was 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0 at just 5/1!
Despite discussions on the venue switch and much pre-match talk centred around finances, both Boro and Arsenal have prepared for this game in the most professional of ways.
Westley has seen the Gunners twice since the draw was made — the second time with his entire first team squad — while also taken them to the Newcastle United training ground, where they enjoyed a session with Sir Bobby Robson, Alan Shearer et al.
The boys then flew to the relaxing Spanish resort of La Manga on Monday where they took part in an intense three-day training camp, while taking time to digest their new-found fame and the extent of the task facing them.
There, Boro met up with familiar faces from Nationwide division one side Gillingham, also out in La Manga ahead of their fourth round clash with Leeds United - the game which replaced Farnborough's as the 12.30pm Sky Sports featured match.
Westley's men put up a good show, only to go down 3-1, but they soon re-discovered their scoring boots when smashing seven past the England Ladies team in an hour-long kick-about.
Arsenal have also done their homework in between crucial Premiership matches with Birmingham City and West Ham, which both ended in emphatic victories.
Manager Arsene Wenger refuses to underestimate Boro, and in his first interview on the match to our colleagues at Arsenal.com, surprised everyone by announcing that the jewel in his crown, Patrick Vieira WILL play in an expected squad XI.
He said on Sunday: "Patrick will play next Saturday. I could have played him today but he had two set backs on his groin and I did not want to take a chance."
Speaking of the chances of a major cup shock, Wenger continued: "It happens in France as well but it is less glamorous and prestigious than here. It is great.
"I tell you, you wait a few years and you will have more and more surprises in the FA Cup because there are so many academies who produce players. Some of them don't completely make it and go to smaller clubs.
"It happened in France. Twenty years ago they created academies and in the last round of the cup nine teams went out. On one day there is no difference.
"I enjoy the romance when we win but understand it that people like it when we lose."
The Arsenal boss, who led his side to the domestic league and cup double last season, ended by indicating his pleasure in seeing the game switched from the Aimita Stadium to Highbury.
"It is more comfortable at Highbury and it will affect my decision because I know what we can do at Highbury.
"Sporting-wise, I don't envisage us going out at Farnborough or Arsenal. It is a relief in one case because we feel more comfortable at Highbury. But we could still have gone out at Highbury.
"I would have loved to have played at Farnborough. It is difficult to talk about because the decision has been made for safety and security reasons and I am not in a position to argue.
"Who can not accept the decision if it based on that? If it is based on financial reason it is very sad. But I have heard it is based on the safety and security of people attending the game."
With an embarrassment of riches, Wenger could field just about any side he wanted and still make a serious challenge for cup honours. But his selection dilemmas are nothing compared to those facing his counterpart.
Westley knows that he holds the key to making or breaking his players' dreams in this, the greatest day in their lives.
The players have all worked their socks off in La Manga this week in a bid to make the starting eleven, but several know they may be left disappointed.
The Boro boss concluded: "It's a big game for us, obviously. We need to make sure we are right and we need to avoid humilation."