Wilkinson and Nusum know shock is possible
Twenty-one years ago Jomar Wilkinson lost in the FA Cup final as a second-tier player with Wolves, now he will attempt to achieve the feat as coach of First Division side Southampton Rangers against Robin Hood on Sunday.
Wilkinson was in the Wolves side who lost 3-2 in extra time in 1997 to Boulevard, the holders at the time whose victory completed four cup wins in seven seasons in the 1990s. One of his midfield partners that day was, coincidentally, John Barry Nusum, the Robin Hood coach, who played in their semi-final win over PHC and could be featured again as a player.
Both coaches know that upsets happen in cup finals, so Hood will not be taking their First Division opponents lightly. Rangers are still unbeaten in all competitions this season and will look to end the campaign with that record intact, having already beaten two Premier Division sides, Devonshire Cougars and North Village, on their way to the final.
“That’s a huge challenge for us in the FA Cup final,” Wilkinson said of the prospect of pulling off victory. “But I believe in this group and we are looking forward to this challenge ahead of us.
“We understand Robin Hood are a Premier Division team but we have the quality and the players have worked hard all season and are looking to earn some respect in the football fraternity. That was our main objective this season, bringing some respect to the blue place [Rangers club], and the FA Cup is a way to do that.
“We have the Shield already so we do have some silverware in the camp, but we are always motivated to win more trophies. We are trying to bring a winning mentality to Rangers and win trophies, and so when we have the opportunity in front of us we are going to go for it.”
Nusum did not manage to retain that first league title that Kyle Lightbourne brought to the club last season, but is looking to keep up the trophy-a-season record that began two years ago with their first FA Cup success. This would be his first trophy with the club.
“We’re just trying to keep things as usual, nothing out of the ordinary,” said Nusum, who revealed “most likely I’ll be playing” when asked about his possible selection. He scored one of the penalties in the kicks from the penalty spot against PHC at Somerset in the recent semi-final.
“At the beginning of the season you want to be in [contention] as much as you can be in. We started the season with the Dudley Eve on the line and will finish it with the FA Cup on the line, so it has been a decent season,” the former Bermuda international said.
“We just took the games as they came, but PHC were really strong this year and took the whole league by storm. It was always going to be difficult with the position they were in the whole season. To get something at the end of it would be good, but I know Rangers are going to come out and be fired up.
“Jomar was in that team when I was playing for Wolves against Boulevard as a Second Division team at that time. We lost the final and, saying that, I know there is no real pressure on them as a First Division team.
“The onus is on us to go and win it, but they will definitely be ready for the battle and ready to upset us. We’re prepared and if we carry out our game plan we should do well.”
Robin Hood beat another First Division team, St George’s, in the quarter-final after coming from a goal down at Wellington Oval to win 2-1. “They gave us a good run, probably one of our better games as far as the competition,” Nusum recalls. “They were hungry and wanted to upset us.
“For Rangers, the season they had has been great but they didn’t get promoted. After going undefeated but not getting promoted, they definitely will want to finish the season on a high. We know they’re going to be ready.”
On Sunday, Hood will face former team-mates in Darius Cox, last year’s captain, and Donte Brangman and Shannon Coddington-Burchall, who rejoined Rangers this season.
“Coming into the season Darius was who I was looking to be the skipper for the team, we talked in the preseason and how he wanted to go back to Rangers,” Nusum said of the defender who departed on a late transfer.
“It will be good to play against him, we actually have three of our former players playing for Rangers which says something about the quality of players who have played for Robin Hood lately.”
The main event will start at 4pm, following the PDL Knockout Cup final between Somerset and Devonshire Cougars which begins at 2pm.
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