Ahead of Friday’s FA Cup clash against Manchester United, Clara Buxton spoke to Cambridge United midfielder Tom Champion about the draw of a lifetime and Cambridge United’s FA Cup legacy.
When 28-year-old holding midfielder Tom Champion joined Cambridge United in 2012, he hardly expected to be lining up against the Red Devils in the tunnel of the R Costings Abbey Stadium. “The draw took a while to sink in. There was about ten seconds of silence and then I jumped around my flat for the rest of the night. Everybody wanted that draw. Manchester United are arguably still the biggest team in the country. It’s unbelievable”.
The U’s last opponents were Newport County, in a game the U’s won convincingly 4-0, but despite the difference in the quality of opponent, Champion insists the pre-match preparation will be the same. “It’s hard to approach it like any other game, but the preparation we’ll do will be the same. Obviously, we know that they are going to be a much higher level than we usually face in the league but you have to try as much as you can to just do your own job and then see what happens. We’re not under any illusions; we know it’s going to be a huge challenge”.
Champion also emphasised the role the manager had played in keeping the squad’s feet on the ground: “The manager has been very good in keeping everything the same as normal. He knows it will be a massive task to get anything out of the game but we just have to try and pick up on their weaknesses and exploit them like we do with any other team”.
“It is easier to approach the game with no expectation. There is everything to gain and nothing to lose. We are going in with excitement rather than nerves. Lining up against those guys in the tunnel, there will be a few butterflies in the stomach but we’ll just concentrate on our work and giving a good account of ourselves as a team. Hopefully their reputations will go out the window once the game gets going”.
A full stadium with three sides of home support will give the team a definite lift and Champion hopes that the legacy of this year’s cup run will extend beyond Friday’s match. “The club have been good trying to make sure this isn’t one off. They are kick starting a legacy of success here at the club. They have made sure with the way they have handled the ticket sales that this ground will be at least almost full for the rest of the season. That will create such a buzz around the club that could push us on to bigger and better things”.
Let’s hope that those bigger and better things begin with a shock victory on Friday.