The magic of the Liverpool FA Senior Cup is that it can throw up a plethora of surprises and minnows Rylands Football Club are certainly this year’s biggest one.
Catching headlines in the local area after the club was taken over by Wayne Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, Rylands have really pushed on in their first season under Stretford, who played for the side in the 1970s, currently sitting first in the North West Counties Division One South after being promoted to Level 10 for the first time in their history last season.
We sat down with manager David McNabb and club captain Gary Kenny (pictured) to get their thoughts on the competition.
With such great league form, one would be forgiven for thinking the side would put cup competitions to one side, but manager David McNabb thinks that the cup run is an important milestone in the club’s history saying: “It’s massive for us.
“The fact is that we’ve never played in this competition and a lot of the players haven’t either. They’ve played in the Junior Cup, the Intermediate Cup, some have played in the U18s version of the Senior Cup.
“But this competition is the pinnacle of football in the Liverpool area and managing to get to a semi-final in our first outing has been brilliant.
“Right now, one our main goals is to build our following and the prestige that comes with the cup is so important, because as you want to progress at this level the best way to do that is getting people through the door,” McNabb added.
“In our experience the more games like this we have the more people we get through the door and more often than not they have a good time, they enjoy themselves and sometimes they come back the following week and that’s a new fan we’ve got.”
This is the first year that the Warrington-based side have played in the competition and despite sitting all the way down in the tenth tier of football have made an impressive run to this stage of the competition, including a dominant performance against AFC Liverpool in the quarter-final.
When looking back on the run, captain Kenny remembers that game in particular saying: “The highlight was playing AFC Liverpool away. We went up to their place and the football we played was fantastic to be honest. The lads knew they had to be stood up and counted and they did that, and we came away with an incredible result in a 4-1 away win.”
McNabb also looks back fondly on the win, adding: “I have to agree with Gary. I think the performance against AFC Liverpool in the last round was fantastic. From start to finish we thought we were the better side. AFC did have about 10-15 minutes where they were on top near the end of the first half but other than that we played some really good football on a fantastic pitch at Marine.
“The whole occasion was fantastic, and we’ve got some close links with the staff and players at AFC Liverpool, so it was a really good occasion made even better by the fact we won it in the end.”
Rylands have been drawn against Southport, the highest ranked team remaining, in the semi-final and McNabb says that without the pressure of expectation on their shoulders they’re just looking to enjoy their time in the competition.
“We’re the lowest ranked side left so we’ve got no expectations other than going out and trying to enjoy the game and to show teams that despite our stature we’re a good team,” he said.
“In the semi-final we will be at home to Southport and it is the first home draw we’ve had in the competition so that will be massive for the team in terms of the revenue it will bring in and I’m sure Southport won’t like playing on our pitch as much as theirs!
“So, while most people think we won’t have a chance of getting through I say you never know. It’s a cup competition and there’s always an upset on the cards somewhere and we’re just hoping that it can be us.”
Kenny believes that the chance to play against bigger teams like Southport in the competition is important for the players of the club, particularly the ones who have never experienced this level of football.
“It’s a massive thing for the lads,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of lads who have stepped up from the West Cheshire league, the Warrington League and the West Cheshire League this season and they have gone from doing that to playing a team that’s four leagues above us.
“It’s a massive achievement and it just gives the lads something to look forward to as well.”
Rylands FC will welcome Southport to Gorsey Lane on March 12th, with the game kicking off at 7.45pm. A pitch inspection will take place at 4.30pm.
We wish both sides the best of luck.