Walsham-le-Willows joint-boss Ian Hubbard ‘relishing’ FA Vase tie against Tilbury
Walsham-le-Willows joint boss Ian Hubbard says he is ‘relishing the chance to have a go’ in the last 32 of the Isuzu FA Vase at home to Tilbury tomorrow (3pm), as the Morrish Stadium outfit look to create more club history in the competition.
After their 3-2 victory at home to White Ensign in early December earnt the Willows a spot in the fourth round proper for the first time, Hubbard admitted that if his side are one of the teams left in the Vase at the turn of the year, then that is when it starts getting serious.
And here Walsham are.
“We’ve come so far as a side. We’re playing ourselves down a bit really. We’re really grateful to be in the cup, we’re in the last 32 in January, I don’t care what anyone says. We’re the only side in our league left in it,” said a proud Hubbard.
“We’ve got a chance, we’re at home, it’s cup football and we’re just relishing the chance to have a go at them.
“We’re feeling positive but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. It’s just another game but we’re certainly going to enjoy it.
“There’s certainly a big buzz around the squad and the players. Everyone wants to be involved.”
Walsham’s four league games since their victory in the previous round has seen them lose to top-of-the-table Mildenhall Town, draw against play-off-chasing Thetford Town, become the first team in the league to beat Dereham Town away from home and draw at third-placed Harleston Town (see page 31).
It was a difficult run of fixtures that Hubbard feels has put his side in good stead to face the Essex Senior League Premier Division leaders.
“When we looked at these fixtures, we thought that’s a really tough run coming into the Christmas period. We have mixed our squad up a bit to give people game-time, which is only fair because they are part of the squad,” said Hubbard.
“The boys that have come in have done fantastically well and given us some proper selection problems, which is great.
“One of my customers is a Tilbury fan. He supports them home and away and he’s been in my ear a bit. He said we’ve caught Tilbury at a bad time, for Walsham.”
Hubbard’s customer has a very strong point. Tilbury are on a 15-game unbeaten run in the league having not tasted defeat in the Premier Division since late August.
Hubbard said: “On paper I think we are underdogs, but we will take that tag.
“We’ve got nothing to lose because at the end of the day we’re going there to win the game. We’ve made history for the club and it’s another step in the right direction.”
While there are still 32 teams remaining in the competition, it would only be natural to get excited and think about the Willows walking out under the famous arches in May.
Hubbard was presented with the statement: ‘Walsham-le-Willows are four wins from Wembley’.
After a brief pause, he said: “It’s unbelievable, but that is the reality of it. We’re that close, but we’re not even thinking about that yet.”
While the road to Wembley could become shorter or be cut off completely tomorrow, Hubbard was keen to reflect on the brilliant position that his side find themselves in.
He stated that he and joint boss Chay Budd had a ‘rebuild situation’ when they took over at the club last season, but now they are the last Thurlow Nunn League side standing in the FA Vase and have received good-luck messages from their opponents in recent weeks. And nothing more complimentary than when Mildenhall boss Phil Weavers told the Walsham duo that they are a side who ‘will have a say in who wins the league’ this season.
The Willows are the talk of the town and, with increased attendances in recent weeks, Hubbard hopes this cup run will get players elsewhere thinking, ‘Walsham have got a bit about them’.