Jamal Campbell-Ryce ready to cut down Spurs as the Sheffield United winger looks to make his Wembley dream a reality
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:58 20 January 2015
Almost every schoolboy who grows up playing football dreams about playing in a Wembley final.
Sheffield United star Jamal Campbell-Ryce is two games away from fulfilling that dream in the League Cup, and it would be extra special for the skilful winger as he grew up in Wembley.
Standing between Campbell-Ryce and his goal is Tottenham Hotspur, who the Blades face in the first leg of the semi-final next Wednesday.
The Jamaican international who has scored seven goals this season is looking forward to the challenge.
He said: “I grew up supporting Spurs so I’m going to have to spend a few quid to get all my family tickets for this one,
“I’ve played at White Hart Lane twice in the past for Southend. We lost both matches so hopefully I can be part of a winning team this time.
“We are the underdogs, as we have been for all the other cup matches against Premier League teams.”
United’s run to the semi-final of the competition has seen them knock out Premier League sides West Ham United and Southampton along the way. In fact, since joining the club in October 2013, manager Nigel Clough has guided his team to 14 wins in 17 cup ties.
Campbell-Ryce added: “It’s not a bad record the manager has since he came to the club, and everyone keeps reminding me about it as the game approaches.
“We certainly won’t be cocky going into the game. We’ve got the utmost respect for them. This is Tottenham we’re playing, who recently scored five goals against Chelsea.
“They are full of international players and we know we will have to play well to pick up a positive result. If we can do that and we can go back to Bramall Lane with something to hold on to then I’m sure the ground will be sold out and the fans are brilliant.
“We know we will have to dig in and work hard to get to Wembley. It would be the biggest highlight of my career to play in a Wembley final.
“I grew up there and went to school not far from the ground at St Joseph’s. I played there once before for Barnsley against Cardiff in the FA Cup semi-final [in 2008] but we lost that day.
“I was back in Wembley a few weeks ago – one of my best mates lives next door to the stadium.”
Campbell-Ryce is in excellent goalscoring form – his two goals against QPR in United’s 3-0 FA Cup win at Loftus Road was followed by another strike in the league against Preston North End who they face in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The former Bristol City player admits he was gutted when a move to QPR fell through in 2010.
“I’ve played at Loftus Road a couple of times. Obviously being a local lad most my pals and family were at the [FA Cup] game so you try to turn your performance level up,” he said.
“When I was at Barnsley, QPR played us at Oakwell and after the game someone from the club said they were really impressed by my performance and asked me if I’d be interested in joining the club.
“I said ‘100% I would’, but then they signed Wayne Routledge instead. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth.”
But Campbell-Ryce is mentally very strong and he believes the influence of his mother, Janet Cato, was vital in helping him to make it as a professional.
“My mum was pretty strict growing up,” he said. “She always made sure I did my school work, but I only had one goal and that was to be a professional footballer.
“I was spotted by Millwall when I was playing for Middlesex and I was really happy when I was offered a YTS [youth training scheme] deal by them.
“I had a big smile on my face but then I got in the car and my
mum told me that they’d said to her that they had only given me a contract because I was a nice boy.
They didn’t think I would make it.
“My mum told me that I needed to work even harder and prove them wrong. She has been my inspiration and my rock throughout my career.”
Campbell-Ryce is known for producing outrageous pieces of skill and is keen to pass on those tricks.
“That’s the way I play,” he said. “I haven’t got the size in terms of height but obviously down the years I’ve bulked up in the gym.
“I try to influence games as much as I can by attacking players and creating chances. If I stopped producing tricks and trying to take players on then I’d just be like everyone else.
“I know I might frustrate sometimes but some days I will be the hero and others the villain.
“I’m doing my coaching badges at the moment and want to set up a soccer school back in Brent. I want to give back to the community.”
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