Salisbury FC boss Steve Claridge has been having trouble sleeping this week – and is loving it.
The Whites manager says the FA Vase quarter final against Ashford United at the Ray Mac on Saturday (February 20th, kick off 3pm) has been giving him sleepless nights, due not to anxiety, but excitement at the prospect.
“These are the games you want, the sort of game that we all wanted when we reformed the club,” said Steve.
“We’ve come a long way in 15 months since we got control of the club’s assets and even further in the last eight months since starting from scratch without one player signed.
“Here we are now, top of the Wessex League and in the last eight of the Vase. Each month seems to bring the biggest game in the new club’s history. It’s been a great journey so far and we hope it’s a long way from being finished yet.
“I’ve not slept well this week just because I’m so excited by this game. When I do get off, I wake up early thinking about it. Since we beat Corsham in midweek, I’ve not been thinking about anything else.
“I know how up for it the players are as well. After Corsham, I said in the dressing room, ‘Get yourself right for Saturday,’ but I could see in their eyes they would be.
“Sometimes this season I’ve had to work hard to get them in the right frame of mind because some occasions have been too easy for them but I don’t think I will have to work too hard with them for this one.
“In fact, I think it will be one of my easiest days of the season. There is just a feeling in the dressing room that this is the one.”
Steve and Director of Football Micky Jenkins travelled to Ashford last Saturday and saw Southern Counties East League United beat Beckenham Town 6-1. That win followed their excellent 3-2 win at Dunston UTS in a Vase 5th round replay and was followed by a midweek 4-0 thumping of Rochester.
The Nuts and Bolts – nicknamed after their links with the railway industry in the town and who like us are a ‘phoenix club formed after the demise of Ashford Town in 2011- thus come to the Ray Mac in good form and confident mood.
“I don’t think they will change the way they play much from what we saw,” said Steve. “They are clearly coming to win the game, from everything they are saying, which is good to hear as it should make for an open and entertaining cup tie.
“I think they are at their best when they attack and so are we. They are not showing any fear and we certainly won’t have any. We’re also on a good run of form. I’ve always said it will take a good side to beat us and if they are that side, good luck to them.”
Whites will still be without Calum Brockway after his shoulder dislocation but Steve is more hopeful that Brandon Mundy will be fit to return.
There was also good news on the injury front this week with goalkeeper Gareth Barfoot successfully coming through groin surgery, though he will need another few weeks before he is ready to play again.
Steve is hoping for yet another big Ray Mac crowd, of up to 2,000.
“We’ve had magnificent support throughout the season and for this run,” he said. “After three away draws, a home tie is just reward for fans. I hope they’ll turn out in numbers and make plenty of noise in support of the boys.”