RUSSELL Pond believes AFC Sudbury can fulfil his dream of playing in the first round proper of the FA Cup this season.
The former Heybridge Swifts player, who joined AFC from the Essex side in March, will travel to face his old team in the first qualifying round on Saturday (3pm).
But friendships will be put aside for assistant manager Barry Lakin, a former Heybridge manager, and Pond as well as a host of other ex-Swifts players in Sudbury’s ranks, as they look to better last season’s third qualifying round exit at Eastbourne Borough.
The Yellows have only ever reached the first round of the world’s most famous domestic competition once since their 1999 amalgamation, in 2000/2001 when they lost 6-1 at Darlington.
“For us it is a great opportunity,” said right-back or defensive midfielder Pond. “Although we enter at a really early stage, especially for a club like Sudbury with the players we’ve got, there is no reason why, with a bit of luck and the right draw, we can’t get to that first round proper.
“It is everyone’s dream to play in the FA Cup and just to get that big tie, preferably at home where we could get all the fans down, that would be a great experience and I’d love to do it.”
The 25-year-old former Colchester Untied trainee spent four years at fellow Ryman One North side Heybridge over two spells, and hopes to go one better than the fourth qualifying round, the latest stage he has previously played in.
“I left there (Heybridge) on good terms and I’m looking forward to it, hopefully to get the right result,” he said. “We’re enemies on the pitch but afterwards we will all shake hands and hopefully when we get the win they will still want to talk to me afterwards.”
Pond, who has been working at the Olympic Village in London as an engineer for EDF Energy, added: “I’d like to nail down the right-back position and make it my own but there is great competition in the club and it is probably the best squad I have been involved in at this level.”
Meanwhile Sudbury’s injury list has increased with striker Lee Boylan having torn ligaments in his ankle in Saturday’s game to keep him out for four to five weeks.
Defender James Smith pulled his hamstring in training last Thursday while Bradley Thomas is set for an operation on his hernia in around four weeks time. But Sam Clarke’s broken arm doesn’t require surgery, although he will be in plaster for six weeks. James Baker’s broken wrist is likely to keep him sidelined for another five weeks while Lauris Coggin (hamstring) has begun light training.
Of Saturday’s cup clash, for which £3,000 prize money is in store for the winners, manager Chris Tracey said: “It is a huge game for the club.
“It is never an easy game at Heybridge and we obviously have connections with Barry and Russell Pond, and to be fair there are probably about six or seven players who have played for them at some time. They came and watched us on Saturday and what will they learn from that? I don’t know as I may play a completely different side.”