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Match Previews

”There’s a strong bond within this team”

FA Youth Cup: Get to know two key figures set to face Blackburn

14 December 2023

Match Previews

”There’s a strong bond within this team”

FA Youth Cup: Get to know two key figures set to face Blackburn

14 December 2023

Having both emerged from footballing family backgrounds, our back line are well acquainted with the ties that bind, before facing up to the challenge of Blackburn.

Goalkeeper Max Foulkes and centre back Riley Horan have both figured in our FA Youth Cup run, seeing off league rivals Cambridge United and Stevenage to earn a place in the third round, as we now prepare to face Rovers at Plough Lane (6pm kick-off on Friday). 

“There’s a strong bond between us,” said Max. “I’ve played with our other centre-back Leo Young since the age of ten - I know him inside out. It’s the same with Riley as well. Those two, with me behind them in goal, we know what each other are going to do out there on the pitch - so I love the pair of them!”

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“That triangle is so important to us, it’s the centre of our defence and it’s what’s really going to win us the games,” said Riley, who set us on our way when he scored our first goal in the competition this season at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

“The connection we have is really good and I played with Leo at 16, making the step up to the Under-18s last year. I’ve been playing with him for quite a while now - as well as Harry Sidwell just in front of us in midfield. That triangle we’ve got is taking shape and really starting to take us places.”

Max and Riley 16.9.JPG

“We’ve been working on a few things for Blackburn - the way we’re going to set up, how we’re going to defend, attack, and different ways that we’re going to approach the game. I think it’s important that we do these things with a lot of focus, because we’ll be coming up against players we don’t usually play against, so we need to get these things nailed down well.

“Our Head Coach Simon Clark is big on analysis and so are we,” said Max. “It gives us such an advantage with how they might approach the game and how they might come at us differently. It helps with our training as well.”

Riley Cambridge 16.9.JPG

While Max isn’t the only goalkeeper in his family, with a Dad who played at non-league level and an elder brother who was previously with us and Derby County, Riley is the nephew of one of Wimbledon’s “Crazy Gang”.

“My uncle is John Gannon,” said Riley. “He played for the Dons and was part of the squad when Wimbledon won the FA Cup back in 1988. He went on to have a good career and played for Sheffield United. I’m born and bred Wimbledon! I was born five minutes away from the stadium, I was brought up around here, so I’m a real Wimbledon boy.

“It was a bit controversial at the time, but I actually started out with Sutton United. I was playing Sunday League with them up until the under-14s/15s season, but I had a trial with Wimbledon and I've been here ever since. I had to take the step up to academy level, but then when Sutton also turned into an academy, I soon came up against boys who were previously team-mates not too long ago!”

Max 16.9 Cambridge.JPG

“It’s quite a funny story how I managed to get a trial,” said Max. “My Mum and Dad were both working one day during half-term. They couldn’t look after me, so I had to go to a goalkeeping camp where my elder brother Harrison was training.

“That goalkeeping camp was run by two of our former goalkeepers Jordan Knight and Andy Little at the time. I was only meant to do it for one day, but I did quite well and came back the next day and then another! I was there for three days, along with Spike Brits, too.

“I was then invited along to train with the goalkeepers on a Monday and Wednesday for about half a season and I didn’t think anything of it - I just enjoyed being a goalkeeper. Then they said we’re going to offer you a trial - I went on trial and here I am now!"

And Max is certainly enjoying the guidance he's receiving from Bayzo and our first-team keepers.

“It’s been so good working with ‘Bayzo’. I’d heard a lot about him when I was younger, but now I’ve been with him for almost two years and as a goalkeeper you improve so much. I’ve learnt so much from him - he’s always there to talk to about games and also I’m picking things up from Alex Bass and Nik Tzanev - it’s so good to be in that environment.”

Action photos: Stephen Flynn (Pro Sports Images).

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