Alex Pearce is no stranger to experiencing the magic of the FA Cup, having previously led out Reading against Arsenal under Wembley’s famous arch.
It’s these moments that are highlights of a player’s career and it underlines just how important the world’s most famous cup competition still is to people.
Ahead of Wimbledon’s second round Emirates FA Cup tie against Ramsgate on Monday 4 December (7.45pm kick-off), our experienced defender recalled his previous cup runs and discusses how much this competition means to the Dons.
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You’ve enjoyed quite a few FA Cup runs in your career, but what is your favourite memory in the competition?
I reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup with Reading and to lead the team out at Wembley against Arsenal is my favourite memory. I was up against Alexis Sánchez, who was in great form for Arsenal back then. We got beaten 2-1 after taking them into extra-time. That was the year they went onto beat Aston Villa 4-0 in the final, so I felt that we would have had a chance if we had beaten Arsenal.
That season with Reading we had not done anything in the league – we were 15th – so it was all about the cup run. It gave us something to celebrate and something to really focus on. We had some great days leading up to the semi-final game.
What is the feeling around a club like when you go on a big cup run?
It depends upon how your league run is going. Sometimes it can be a nice distraction for you and with our form having dipped in the league a bit it could be an opportunity to get the feel-good factor going around the Club again. The FA Cup is a fantastic competition - there is a real tradition in it which goes back over 150 years - and everyone wants to do well in it. Personally, I love the FA Cup and I think it’s a great competition.
And you also reached the quarter-final with Millwall in 2019, knocking the Dons out along the way. What do you remember about that last-eight match versus Brighton?
That was another great day. It was unfortunate how it ended because we were beating Brighton 2-0 and we conceded the equaliser right at the end. Even our goalkeeper David Martin would say that he could have done a lot better with that. He was just as devastated as every one else. We were so close to reaching a semi-final, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
You were also born in 1988 – a big year for Wimbledon in winning the FA Cup – so how proud does that make you that you’re representing a club that has actually won the competition?
That year I was born was obviously a fantastic year for the football club – and it does make you proud. What a great team that was and what a time to be a part of Wimbledon. We would all love to go on a similar journey!
What kind of mentality do you think is needed to upset the odds in the FA Cup?
It’s a cliché, but you really need to take each game at a time. You don’t over-think the occasion, you make sure that you turn up individually and tick each game off. That was the mentality we had at Reading and Millwall in those years – we ticked each game off and before we knew it we were in the quarter and semi-finals. That is how you should approach it.
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