By Alec McQuarrie
Bracknell bosses Jamie McClurg and Carl Withers have only been in the job for a month but have already achieved what no one could manage in 22 years.
Next Monday, the Pitching In Southern South side will host League One high-fliers Ipswich live on ITV4 at Bottom Meadow.
The duo already masterminded a 4-0 two-division scalp with Binfield against Tonbridge Angels in the second qualifying round, before taking the reins at their hometown club.
And having knocked out National League North Banbury United 2-1, the stage is set for the biggest spectacle Robins fans have witnessed since playing Lincoln City at the same round in 2000.
Withers said: “You only need to see the way it’s drawn the public, it’s galvanised the town. It’s a huge opportunity for the club itself.
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“It’s put Bracknell back on the map. It’s been 22 years since they got to the first round proper and Jamie and I are really proud to be a part of that.
“For me in terms of management, it’s probably the pinnacle as things stand.
“But obviously we don’t want to sit still. We want to keep making memories and breaking records together with Bracknell.”
It’s been a happy return so far for the former Robins midfielders, currently on a nine-game unbeaten run and through to the first round of the FA Cup and Trophy.
“We’ve got to praise these lads because they’ve bought into us straightaway,” said McClurg.
“So we can’t thank them enough and praise them enough in the way they are, and that’s as people, not just footballers.”
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But it wasn’t a straightforward decision to move on from Binfield, a club they took to the FA Vase final and Step 4 via promotion in 2021.
“Bracknell was always a club in the back of our minds we’d love to have managed one day so when the call came it was just too good an opportunity to turn down,” said Withers.
“We sat down with chairman Kayne [Steinborn-Busse] and his ambition became very clear to us. If we didn’t take it now, it might never come again.
“It was hard because we made such great friends at Binfield and it’s a real family club.“
As for preparing their players for Ipswich, who are sitting second in League One, McClurg has no time for one of the most established pieces of football wisdom.
Withers said: “The biggest cliché is play the game, not the occasion, right? And I’m sure any manager would be saying it.”
McClurg added: “I’ve heard people say that throughout my career and I’ve always thought the opposite. Play the occasion, don’t play the game.
“I had 22 seasons of trying to get to the First Round and never got there.
“That’s what we said to them against Banbury: play the occasion because you might not get back here, no matter how old you are.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/