Interview: Cambridge City striker Craig Hammond

Interview: Cambridge City striker Craig Hammond
© PA Photos
Cambridge City are looking to spring an FA Cup upset against League One side MK Dons on Friday night. Here, Sports Mole speaks to their leading goalscorer Craig Hammond.

The history of the FA Cup is littered with examples of the so-called smaller clubs pulling off an upset.

One of the teams that will be attempting to pull off their own version of 'David and Goliath' is Cambridge City of the Southern Premier League when they play host to League One's MK Dons on Friday night.

As the tie draws nearer, we caught up with City centre-forward Craig Hammond to discuss his side's chances of upsetting the odds in round one of the country's oldest cup competition.

What was your reaction when you were drawn out of the hat alongside one of the biggest clubs in League One?
"Everyone at the club wanted the best draw possible. If you're not going to pull out the likes of Sheffield United or Portsmouth away, a nice home tie against a top five or six team in League One - and with them being a little bit local - is a good tie."

They've got the likes of Alan Smith and Luke Chadwick in their squad. What will it be like to come up against those type of players?
"They've got a very good squad with some ex-Premier League footballers. For myself and the other lads at City, you all want to be a professional and you want to test yourself against the best. If they've played in the Premiership, they've obviously got something about them and it should be a really good test."

Is there a part of you that wishes the game was being played at the Stadium:MK?
"You want to go to the best grounds possible as a player and play in the best atmospheres. I'm not sure how many people will be there but I'm sure it would be great. Who knows, a draw on Friday night and we could get a nice replay back there and then we've got the best of both worlds, playing at home and away. Playing at home you've always got to fancy yourselves because hopefully they won't fancy coming to Milton Road on Friday night. We'll have to see what happens."

What is the aim? Are you going out to win the game or is a replay equally appealing?
"Without a doubt we are going out to win. We fancy ourselves if we play our football. We know we've got to raise our game to even compete with them. But it is a one-off. People will say that it is our cup final and we have got nothing to lose. It's been great for the club to get this far and with the TV cameras there, it should give us that extra little incentive to give that extra bit until you literally can't stand no more! A draw would be fantastic but we are going to try and win it."

You mention the television cameras there. On a personal level, what will it be like to play in front of an audience that could go into the millions?
"To have ESPN there is fantastic. Every player, whether you're non-League or professional, wants to play in front of the TV cameras. It's a great experience for all of us. Being a striker it would be quite nice if I get a chance and put it away in front of the cameras. It should be a great experience all round."

You've scored eight goals in the competition already this year. How do you think you'll cope coming up against League One defenders?
"It's a challenge and a challenge that I have never faced before but I will certainly give it a good go. Who knows? You could go out and make a name for yourself. The whole squad wants to have that feeling of scoring the winning goal or making a last-ditch tackle but we will have to see on Friday night. Hopefully we will get the win and I will get a goal."

What has training been like since the draw? Have the management been trying new things?
"Training has been good. We didn't have a game on Saturday so we trained and went through a few set-pieces. The management have just said that they don't want to change too much and told us to go out and do what we usually do. We are training tonight (Wednesday) and that will be it before Friday. I'm sure we'll go through a few things in terms of how we will play. We've got this far playing the way that we are used to. By changing it, it could be disastrous. Everyone knows that it will be harder and they are a pro club so they will be fitter. Apart from that we've got to get the ball down and play our own game."

Would it be fair to say that the opening goal is crucial to City having a realistic chance of getting through?
"The first goal is key. The longer we can have a foothold in the game the better. Ideally it would be great to score first but as long as we keep clean sheet for the first 30 minutes or so we'll be in it. If you concede early then you're always chasing the game. The longer you can keep it level or being in front yourselves, you've got a lot more chance of winning the game."

So is this the biggest game you've ever played in?
"Without doubt. Not just because the TV cameras there but because of what it would mean for the club to get through to the next round. And for the fans as well. The club has been going through a bit of a tough time with the talk of different stadiums. It's not just for the players, but for every person involved with the club."

You spent a few years playing at step five in the Non-League pyramid. Is this match reward for all your hard work?
"They were the good days! Playing for Royston and Mildenhall Town has got me where I am. You don't start up at the lower levels and build yourself up for nothing. It has all played a part in me getting to Friday night."

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