I have been a supporter and volunteer at Hornchurch since 2012 and this is by far the best season so far, even with regular league games suspended- as I never dreamt the Urchins would make it to the home of football at Wembley.
I am going with a 3-4-3 formation and cheekily I am going to add a 7-man bench as I feel some players only just miss out and deserve a mention.
1. Joe Wright – Joe has been excellent this season and an all-round shot stopper, against penalties and in open play. He just edges Sam Mott as his matches since December have been against National League opposition, and has made some excellent stops to keep the team in the tournament- with 3 straight penalty saves v Kings Lynn and a miraculous stop to keep the Urchins in the game at one down against Notts County that was a pivotal moment in the game. I am sure if he stays with us will also take the clean sheet record Mott currently holds and create a lasting legacy.
2. Mickey Parcell – A committed tough-tackling full back who can make forward runs and has proven recently against Notts County just how good he is and can be for the side going forward. Made a fully committed last gasp block to keep the Urchins in the game against Notts County. I love his passion for the game and how he motivates the team around him. He just edges Alex Bentley out after that semi-final performance; Alex would have been in this spot if you asked me this earlier this season.
3. Remi Sutton – Another committed attacking full back who has good movement going forward on overlaps and has a creative ability to provide a good cross or finish in opposition box, but also a strong defensive play to hold his own against any opponent. Provided the run and final pass to create the first goal against Darlington to set up the game for the Urchins.
4. Elliot Styles – one of 2 players from before my time who I was lucky enough to see play for the Urchins. A sentence or paragraph would not be enough to describe this club legend of over 500 appearances. A committed player who gave everything on the park and a natural leader who quite often carried battle scars through to the end of a match. His presence on the pitch brought the teams he played in together and he inspired the younger players around him. He was one of the first players I met and got to speak to in my first few games and always made supporters new or old feel welcomed to the club.
5. Rickie Hayles – another long serving player who has been exceptional across 4 spells with the club. He has been a solid workhorse and as a result has been player of the season a few times- richly deserved. He has formed some excellent partnerships with Styles and Cooper and his experience in big matches has been key to helping our team get to Wembley.
6. Nathan Cooper – Has been ever-present forming partnerships over his time at the club with Styles and Hayles, and also with Kenzer Lee with whom we won the Isthmian North title in the best defence across the league at the time. A really committed team player who contributes useful goals when he can get forward. Deserves his chance to play at Wembley and to have the opportunity to step up to National League. A great player to have in any squad and a leader by his example on and off the pitch.
7. Andy Tomlinson – I know this choice will cause a bit of a shock, but for me in the 8 and half seasons I have been a regular I have yet to see a player wear the shirt with such an accurate range of passing and creativity. He often went unnoticed in the middle of the park for the first 2 seasons I was privileged to watch him, yet he created so many opportunities to score or cause the opposition trouble whilst also being an accurate tackler. It’s a shame he came to the end of his career as it would be a real joy to still see him play and he would be great to have in the squad for this Trophy run.
8. Jordan Clark – I like to have a creative player alongside a team player and Jordan Clark for me gets this position over several others. He has sheer determination and character, determined to be successful and to hold the team together. He is a strong tackling player who can also put in a good pass to unlock the opposition. You only have to look at him against Notts County and during the rest of the FA Trophy run to see what I am getting at. He actually played as a central defender v Notts County and although was caught out by Kyle Wootton for the first goal of the game his response to that was immense. He closed Wootton down for the rest of the match, and he got involved to create the pass that led to Nash getting his first goal. I’d have him play in the hole in front of my 3 central defenders and allow him to play a free role as he reads the game well and makes a huge difference on his day.
9. Stefan Payne – He is the only player in my squad to have only been at the club for just one season, but from his first goals to turn the match around and create a win at Dulwich Hamlet he formed a very successful partnership with our club record goal scorer, was part of a sixty plus goal partnership, and helped the team to within 90 minutes of promotion straight back up to the Conference South. What makes him stand out to me is his strong character and the arrogance that meant that, often when the team went 1-0 down, he would level the scores to 1-1 or push the team to victory. He deserves his chance to be playing professional football again having dropped out of the professional game before coming to the Urchins. Perhaps one day we may see him come back to play for us before the end of his career. Got as high as the championship with Barnsley and was key to Shrewsbury’s push to Wembley for the play off final. I hope he gets to watch the Trophy final and cheer on the Urchins.
10. George Purcell – Club records are there to be made and broken. George has been an exceptional player to have at Hornchurch over the years and choose to stay with us for six seasons and was leading scorer in five. An all-rounder who creates goals, scores 30-yard free kicks or picks out a 30-yard shot to catch out a keeper. He was always a joy to watch and deserved to be a part of the team that won promotion back to the Isthmian Premier. Seeing him play alongside Stefan Payne was always interesting as both players always wanted to score and sometimes may have got in each other’s way, but to be part of a 60 + goal attack meant he became a hit with the East Side. I often thought we might lose him to bigger teams in higher leagues because he had the ability to play National League or even higher, but we have been blessed with lots of memories because he choose to stay and as a result has a club record 150 goals to his name. There will never be a better player to sum up the AFC Hornchurch era than George Purcell. A club legend who will be fondly talked about for generations to come.
11. Tobi Joseph – A wonderful attacking midfield/forward player who could also play on the wing. He rarely on his day gave the ball away or fouled anyone but was a very strong player and often carried the ball through opponents tackles to create goalscoring opportunities. I loved to watch him play just behind the front 2 in a creative position where he could choose to play either side of the park as this was where he was at his best. Sadly, for Tobi he had a terrible double leg break which set his career back and afterwards he was not quite the player he was before but for the 3 seasons he gave us his best we were a strong side when he played, and he created some magic moments. We now have a similar player with Charlie Ruff although given time I am sure he would show us his star quality to make the team and drop Tobi to my bench.
12. Sam Mott – drops to bench because of Joe Wright’s Trophy exploits but a fantastic player and keeper. His experience and being club record holder for the most clean sheets means he deserves no less than to be on the bench. I will never forget his triple save from a penalty v Heybridge Swifts which is on our old AFC Hornchurch YouTube channel. It sums up what a class keeper he is.
13. Alex Bentley – A fantastic full back. Just misses out to Remi and Mickey who have shown their quality in this FA Trophy run. Would be a very handy utility player for the bench though and has a wealth of experience that makes him an excellent player to have in the squad. Have many fond memories of watching him play and he was always excellent at any position he was asked to play in.
14. Chris Dickson – an experienced striker near the end of his career when he came to Hornchurch but a potent force up front and he created goal scoring chances and also scored them. He is a game changer whenever he is involved, and with his cool head and years of playing professional football, he is a valuable player to have around. That vision to create the opportunity for Charlie Ruff to cross in for the 3rd equaliser and also that coolly taken final penalty v Notts County shows just how much he means to the squad.
15. George Saunders – very impressive with his pace and can change a game in a moment. Due to the formation I’ve chosen he misses out on starting but if we needed to change shape, he gives an excellent attacking threat going forwards and creates goalscoring opportunities.
16. Jay Porter - Only played one whole season- in which Hornchurch won the Isthmian North- but more than showed his potential as a left full back and I think could also be a useful cover for left wing with his pace.
17. Ellis Brown - A useful attacking full back, winger, or even forward player who in his short time has impressed me in every match. Even in his quieter games he has been solid and consistent. I think he is at his best as a winger who can create as well as score goals. In our FA Trophy run he has been a reliable workhorse and held his own for 90 minutes + in every game he has started.
18. Martin Touhy – A goal poacher and usually scored goals that won or changed games at a critical moment. I loved his movement off the ball and how he could consistently find space within the penalty area and give defenders a hard time. He was also handy playing on the wing on occasion and swapping around with other forwards to mix it up a bit.
Whatever ever happens in the FA Trophy Final it will always be a proud day for Hornchurch FC. It is a club that has been blessed with some great Non-League players over its 98 year history and has an excellent fan following, and I hope we will see more great history being made in the years to come.
Image: Richie Sumpter
Right, let’s have your First XI! Email your squad to Ian at email@example.com and you’ll see it appear here.
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