Former Ipswich Town defender George Fowler optimistic as he prepares for Portman Road return with Maidstone United in FA Cup
Ex-Debenham High School pupil and current Maidstone United defender George Fowler says the Stones are heading into tomorrow’s Emirates FA Cup clash at Ipswich Town with ‘optimism’ that they can ‘catch’ his former side ‘off guard’.
The Blues and Maidstone will face each other in the fourth round of the world’s oldest and most famous domestic cup competition, after the 26-year-old helped the lowest-ranked side left in the tournament overcome Sky Bet League One Stevenage 1-0 in the previous round.
The former Town defender made just one first-team appearance for the Portman Road outfit, which came in a 2-1 defeat away at Crystal Palace in the second round of the Carabao Cup in 2017, when Mick McCarthy was at the helm. And Fowler admitted that he is ‘excited to be going back’ to a place that he has ‘fond memories’ of.
“We’re fully aware that we’re coming up against a much stronger opposition than we’ve played so far, a team in the Championship who are trying to get back into the Premier League,” he said.
“We’re aware of the quality that we’re coming up against but at the same time, they’ll be aware that we’ve played a League Two team in Barrow, and beat them, and a League One team in Stevenage and beat them.
“So we’re going with some optimism that we can catch them off guard and not even necessarily get a draw and bring them back here, which would be another great occasion, but you never know we might even be able to get the win
“We’re not going out there to hold out and see how we get on as there’s obviously hope that we can get a result.”
The Vanarama National League South outfit’s tie with the Championship’s second-placed side will be broadcast live on BBC One (12.30pm).
When the fourth-round draw was made, Fowler admitted that most of the players were ‘a bit gutted’ as they were hoping for a Premier League club. The former Aldershot man had to hold back his excitement, but he called his family, who are Suffolk based, straight away and they ‘were all buzzing’ with the fixture.
None more so than his brother, who lives in Ipswich and called Fowler before the draw saying ‘please be Ipswich away, please be Ipswich away’.
“I’m looking forward to going back there and playing a proper first-team fixture, something that I never actually got to do,” said Fowler.
“I’m excited and proud to be walking out with Maidstone now. Coming out at Portman Road, a ground that I’ve played at but at 23s level, there is more pride walking out for a first-team fixture where I’m going to have all my family there and old school friends that are coming to watch.”
Maidstone boss George Elokobi has stressed to his players that they should ‘enjoy the occasion’ and all of the media attention that they are going to receive.
Fowler admitted that they were ‘a little bit disappointed’ that their victory against Stevenage was not televised but cannot wait to play in front of the cameras this time round, as well as a sold-out away end.
He said: “Especially for those that haven’t managed to grab tickets for the Maidstone end, they’ll be buzzing that they’ll still be ale to watch live on the BBC and it’s another exciting thing for us to look forward to.
“The other day, when the tickets went on general sale, the queues were all the way along the ground and all the way along past my flat because I live nearby. They were lapped up.
“It’ll be a great day for us but also for the club in general and all the fans, it’ll be a great day out and one that they won’t forget.”
He added: “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point so we deserve to enjoy the moment and relish it.
“The message has been to keep our focus on the league but enjoy the attention that is coming with the FA Cup, because moments not like this don’t happen very often at this level.”