Maidstone United defender George Fowler labels FA Cup victory at Ipswich Town best moment of his career
“Just the three minutes then ref?,” joked Maidstone United centre-back George Fowler to referee Anthony Taylor, before the fourth official announced to Portman Road that there would be a minimum of eight minutes added time at the end of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie.
The Stones, winning 2-1, were eight minutes away from knocking Premier League-chasing Ipswich Town out of the cup. Eight minutes away from the unthinkable.
Eventually Taylor put the whistle to his lips to signal to George Elokobi’s bench that the pandemonium could begin.
The Vanarama National League South outfit had defied the odds and progressed to the last 16 of the world’s oldest and most famous domestic cup competition – the first to do so since the regional split was introduced in 2004 and ex-Debenham High School pupil Fowler was integral in making that happen.
“It’s by far the best (achievement in my career), by far the best. Even though I’m still relatively young, I’ve been playing at this level for a while now and I think that’s going to be tough to beat,” said the former Town defender.
“The exhilarating feeling of that final whistle in front of such a big crowd will be tough to beat.
“I think if anyone was honest, no one expected it. To hold out under such pressure, it was relief, pure joy and just celebrations from there on in.
“It's hard to describe (the feeling) when that final whistle went. I think I embraced with a couple of the boys straight away on the halfway line and then went over to the fans.
“A few tears were shed from quite a few of us at that point, you understand with the fans and all the limbs that were going on the magnitude of what we had just done.
“Just watching back the videos, seeing how invested everyone was and the tears from the family, you realise they’re all cheering for you and you can’t help but get a little bit emotional watching it.
“Everyone was so proud to be there and to share that occasion with so many people, it was a really special moment.”
Fowler’s family still live in Suffolk and his mum, Sue, works at Debenham High School.
The 26-year-old’s former PE teacher, who works alongside his mum, attends a lot of Town's games and said he would be in attendance to watch his ex-student in action in the FA Cup on Saturday.
While Fowler expected him to be sat with the rest of the Portman Road faithful, his old teacher had made the two-and-a-half-hour journey down to Maidstone the weekend before to queue up and purchase a ticket in the away end.
And when his mum saw his former PE teacher at work on Monday, he was bursting with pride.
“Little things like that are incredible,” admitted Fowler.
After defeating Championship opposition in the fourth round, the Stones were hoping for a trip to a Premier League outfit in the last 16.
It looked on the cards as they were one of the last four teams to be drawn out of the hat, alongside treble-winners Manchester City, but Elokobi’s side were given a tie away at either Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry City.
“We’ve now got another Championship side and we’ve managed to get a result against one of the best Championship sides,” said Fowler.
“Regardless of whether it is Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry, both will be great occasions in terms of stadiums to go to and capacity again. And it will be one that we can have a little bit more belief than before as well as knowing what we’ve done at Ipswich.”