Stratford Town head coach Paul Davis talks further on the club's preparation for historic FA Cup Tie
For many English footballers the chance to play in an FA Cup tie is the stuff of dreams, and for Stratford Town’s players, staff and supporters Sunday’s match against Shrewsbury presents the opportunity for them to keep on dreaming.
When the whistle blows at 3pm The Bards will take the next step on a journey that has seen them battle through four qualifying rounds, the last of which was a nail-biting replay win against Boston United.
Head Coach Paul Davis said: “When we trained ahead of the Boston game I wouldn’t let the players leave until they understood what we were doing on every blade of grass, and that’s what we’ve done for Shrewsbury. We’ve managed to do quite a bit of research in the cup run where we wouldn’t necessarily have the time in the league.
“Also, against Boston the fans were tremendous, and I think what helps is getting in the ground early because it builds an atmosphere. When the players came out at quarter past two and there were nearly 1,500 people in by then they could lose their nerves and get a feel for the atmosphere. That helps massively and that’s what helped against Boston. So if the fans can be in early and build that atmosphere it’ll help us massively, then we can give them something to cheer about.”
This will be Paul’s third time leading a team out for an FA Cup first round tie, after two previous encounters as first team coach of Oxford City, an experience that has given him perspective on the demands and delights of reaching this stage of the competition.
He said: “It’s important for my staff that we celebrate the cup run regardless of the result on Sunday, but if, through a win or draw, we can be in the second round draw then that would be elation. Then I can reflect on what we’ve achieved. But before that it’s important to concentrate on the game and not the emotion of it.”
Preparation for the game has seen the ITV camera rigs installed at the Arden Garages Stadium, but for Davis the club will stick to what it’s always done.
He explained: “We obviously film all our games on a video camera, and I said to the guy who does that, ‘I still want the video camera’, he said, ‘Why? You’ve got the ITV coverage?’. I said ‘You can’t clip ITV’s coverage.’ So hopefully we’ll have our own copy of it and if any of us change our Sky box we’ll still have it on file.”
Another form of preparation for the game will also be taking place, as some of the players will be practicing their pre-match superstitions.
Paul said: “There are various little quirky things, I know Liam O’Brien has to have porridge on the morning of the game, he can’t have anything else. We’ve travelled on the coach to games and he’s been carrying his porridge around looking for hot water.
“Joe Magunda always has an ASDA pizza on Friday night before a game, so if we’re staying in a hotel on Saturday he’s said he’s bringing his pizza. So there’s little quirky things but nothing major like Paul Ince walking out of the tunnel without his shirt on.”
Coverage of the match starts live on ITV4 on Sunday from 2.30pm