Wokingham Today

‘We might be underdogs, but we’re in it to win it’

- By TOM CROCKER tcrocker@wokinghamp­aper.co.uk

PHIL RUGGLES admits his Eversley and California side will be underdogs in their first cup final for nine years.

Eversley enjoyed trophy success during their Surrey League days in 2009, but since merging with Wokingham-based California in 2012, they have not picked up any silverware.

But that run could end in the Combined Counties Division One Cup final after they saw off FC Deportivo Galicia 2-0 at Fox Lane in Saturday’s semi-final to set up a clash with Staines Lammas at Windsor’s Stag Meadow on May 5.

And Ruggles, who has been in charge of the Boars for just over two years, says he is relishing the chance to lift a trophy, but knows it will not be easy.

“It’s always nice to reach a final, especially in senior football,” the former Frimley Green boss told The Wokingham Paper.

“It’s not often you get there really whether it’s as a player or a manager so I’m very happy.

“We’ve not had great times against Staines of late.

“We lost to them both times in the league this year, but I wouldn’t say because of quality, just because in both games I felt they wanted it more.

“I think with our lads, if they turn up we’re a very good side.

“We’ll go into the game as underdogs but if we turn up with the right attitude and show what we can do, I think we’ve got a very good chance.”

It has been a strange campaign for the Boars.

After a brilliant start, Ruggles’ charges sat second in Division One in November, but a barren winter spell saw them slip well off the pace and they now sit down in eighth.

And the manager admits he has been frustrated by the slide.

“I think we won eight or nine on the bounce at the start of the season and we were top of the league,” Ruggles recalls.

“We lost 10 players from that period until around just after Christmas for money to other clubs or just because of work commitment­s and things like that.

“Trying to bring players in without a budget is very difficult so we’ve gone another way where we’ve looked to bring players from the younger age groups within the club.

“It took them time to adjust but now they’re finding their feet a lot more.

“We knew they had quality but I think now that’s coming through.

“I’ve been here just over two seasons now. We missed out on promotion by the maximum of 10 points both times, which has been very annoying and disappoint­ing really.

“I think we’ve got a very young squad and if we can keep them together, I do feel we can push on and hopefully be a bit more consistent over that winter period.”

As well as the final against Staines, Eversley and California still have six league games to go as well as an Aldershot Senior Cup semi-final after defeating Sandhurst Town in the quarters.

And while the league campaign has not gone to plan, Ruggles is still hoping to try and salvage the season.

“If we can get to the top six that would be the target,” he

said. “I think it’s within our reach to do that. “We’ve got another semi-final to look forward to as well in the Aldershot Cup where we play Fleet Town or the Army.

“It’s a bit disappoint­ing for me to tail off at the end of the season in the league but with the cup runs we’ve had, it’s kept us going.

“Hopefully we can take some momentum going now and build something going into the final.” n n

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