AFC Sudbury captain Lewis O'Malley hoping for another FA Cup shock against Colchester United
There will be few - if any - captains younger than Lewis O’Malley leading out their teams in the Emirates FA Cup first round proper this weekend.
Just a day short of his 20th birthday, the defender-turned-midfielder is set to don the skipper’s armband once again when AFC Sudbury take on Colchester United under The MEL Group Stadium lights tomorrow evening (7.55pm).
O’Malley was an inspirational figure when the Yellows pulled off one of the biggest results in the club’s history by knocking out Vanarama National League South leaders Dartford in the previous round.
He led by example in the heart of midfield, and rounded off an afternoon to remember by easing the nerves with a goal that made it 3-1 deep into stoppage time.
This time around things crank up a few notches, with the nation watching live on the BBC, while EFL League Two outfit Colchester sit 77 places and four promotions above Sudbury in the football pyramid.
Nevertheless, Sudbury have already proven themselves to be an effective ‘banana skin’ for higher-league opponents, having also disposed of Step 3 side Cheshunt.
And on what will be the eve of his birthday, O’Malley is dreaming of history repeating itself.
“It’s hard to put the whole thing into words,” said the former Cambridge United trainee. “For most of the lads it is probably going to be a once in a lifetime experience.
“We’re all really looking forward to it. We’re playing against a professional team live on the TV – you cannot ask for more.
“It’s been a fantastic run so far, and we can go into this with a lot of confidence.
“I don’t think there’s many professional teams in the competition that would want to be coming to us on a Friday night.
“We’re a banana skin and that worked in our favour in the last round.
“You make your own luck sometimes. We know everyone expects them to beat us, but we’ll be working our socks off for each other and looking to match our opposite number.
“If we do that, who knows? There’s always a shock or two in every round of the FA Cup.
“Like we also say as a group – stay in the game. It’s done us well so far and we won’t be changing from that on Friday.”
Eyebrows may have been raised when O’Malley was selected by joint bosses Rick Andrews and Angelo Harrop to take on the responsibility of the captaincy in the wake of Joe Whight’s summer departure to Felixstowe & Walton United.
But as a natural leader, it’s not a position that fazes O’Malley – even tomorrow when the Colchester captain could be Tommy Smith, a veteran of more than 300 Football League appearances and a player that has represented New Zealand at the FIFA World Cup.
“It’s a really huge honour and it’s going to be a proud moment to be up against players like that,” he added.
“But at the same time I know I’ve got a job to do and that’s what the focus will be on.
“I’m used to leading teams – I’ve been the captain of most of the teams I’ve played for.
“It’s a huge privilege to be captaining a side like Sudbury, especially with a lot of senior boys in the squad.
“They’ve been great with me, they’ve accepted me in the role and made my job easy.
“I know I’m young – probably one of the youngest in the competition – but I’ve always felt that if you’re good enough then you’re old enough.”