Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man Maxwell is eager to sample magic of the FA Cup

 

On mission: Walthamstow FC player/manager Ryan Maxwell is hoping to make club history and reach the third qualifying round of the FA Cup
On mission: Walthamstow FC player/manager Ryan Maxwell is hoping to make club history and reach the third qualifying round of the FA Cup
Ryan Maxwell

By Stuart McKinley

Geographically, only 15 miles separate the London district of Walthamstow from Wembley Stadium.

In FA Cup terms, however, they are a million miles apart.

That won't stop Belfast-born player/manager Ryan Maxwell from the challenge of making Cup history with Walthamstow FC.

The team from the Essex Senior League has already battled through three rounds to reach today's second qualifying round - the eventual winners have to win six matches - and if they can make that four against Abbey Rangers, from the Combined Counties League, it will be uncharted territory for the club, which plays in the ninth tier of the English game.

"This is massive for the club," said 36-year-old Maxwell, who was a teenage protégé at Chelsea before, by his admission, he didn't help his own career.

"If we win on Saturday we will have gone further in the FA Cup than the club has ever been before, which would be a fantastic achievement for us. It's a great achievement already.

"I also believe that we are the lowest-ranked team left in the competition - we certainly will be if we win."

BT Sport have recognised the significance of the game and will send cameras to the 3,500-capacity Wadham Lodge to cover the match.

That may make already nervous players even more tense, but that's when former Northern Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 international Maxwell will be ready to do his job.

"I'm feeling confident about the game," he said.

"I think the one thing that I need to do is to keep the players calm.

"BT Sport are coming to the game and as long as the players don't focus on that and all the other things that will be going on around the match and concentrate on what they have to do during the 90 minutes, then I believe we're good enough to win the game."

Other than being knocked out of the Essex Senior Cup a couple of weeks ago, when Maxwell fielded some of his younger players, Walthamstow are unbeaten this season, winning six of their eight games - and conceding only two goals along the way.

For a man who runs a security company, it's no surprise that Maxwell has built his team's success on their defence.

"The job works well for me alongside the football," said Maxwell.

"I have enough staff that I don't have to do Friday night shifts before a match or on training nights, so I can focus on football."

While a trip to Wembley in the FA Cup is beyond his wildest dreams, Maxwell does have his sights set on talking Walthamstow there this season.

"I set a target for the players in pre-season to win the league and I want to go far in the FA Vase," he said.

"I would love to win it but the semi-finals are played at Wembley too, so that is very much a realistic target for us."

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