By Rob Cole
Robbie Willmott has already picked out the Manchester City player he wants to swap shirts with after Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Rodney Parade.
But the Newport County wide man is rather fearful that if he does get to swap, his own shirt will get used to wash the car.
“I’d love a shirt, anyone’s shirt. If you get any one of their player’s shirts it is going to be a really collectable item,” said Willmott, who scored the first goal that helped to dump Middlesbrough out in the last round.
“I’d love to swap with someone like Kevin de Bruyne or Sane, because he plays wide like me. I’m not sure what they’d use my shirt for, though, probably to wash the car.”
The 28-year-old’s annual salary is around a tenth of what players like De Bruyne takes home in a week at the Etihad, but he doesn’t begrudge the City slickers a penny of what they earn. All he hopes is that he can make them earn every penny on Saturday.
“There are certain contracts out there that probably aren’t warranted. I know he is a good player, but Alexis Sanchez is reported to be on 450k per week at Manchester United, which is just ridiculous,” said Willmott.
“There will be players at Man City on 150-200k per week and I say ‘good on them’. If someone handed me a contract like that I’d certainly sign it and I know they’ve sacrificed a lot to get there.
“It got to a stage when I was playing part time that I couldn’t live off what I was earning football-wise so I had to go out and get another job. Now I am back playing full time, and I’ve got a new contract, the money is a lot easier.
“We’re at the lower end of the League Two wages. A top player, probably a striker, could expect to take home around £1,400 a week.
“But days like Saturday aren’t about money. If you measured it on money alone then we’d lose before we started because they’ve got a billion pound team.
“It’s about seeing what you can achieve and striving to be the best you can on the day. The FA Cup is about whoever is better on the day.”
The fact Pep Guardiola’s team have got to travel to play at Rodney Parade is another variable that Willmott believes will be in favour of the minnows. It will be a totally different experience, and surface, to that which they are used to.
“I watched Man City at the weekend when they beat Chelsea and it was quite daunting. But that was on a good pitch,” said Willmott.
“Now they’ve got to come to Rodney Parade and I’d be amazed if they can play the same free-flowing football on our pitch.
“They play amazing football and, watching it week in, week out on Match of the Day, you can only sit back and enjoy. But when you know you’ve got to play them in a few days’ time it is different – you have to show them respect, but not too much.
“We’ve got to get in their faces as much as possible. The crowd here are amazing and we know they are all up for the fight.”
Willmott is hoping he once again gets hauled off his sofa on Saturday night to hail another stunning FA Cup success for County. After scoring his magnificent opening goal against Middlesbrough, the 28-year-old winger was just about to watch the highlights with a cup of tea when he got a call from the County press officer to return to the ground to do some more interviews.
There were no complaints then, and there certainly won’t be any this weekend if he has to do a similar thing in the wake of the fifth round clash with the Premier League champions.
“I was sat at home with a cup of tea, waiting for the highlights of the Middlesbrough game to come on the TV, when I got a call asking me to come back to the ground to do a media session,” said Willmott.
“That was about 10.45pm. Luckily, I only live a couple of minutes from the ground, so it was easy to jump into the car and get it done.
“It has been a good couple of weeks for me and it has been brilliant for my confidence. I believe in myself a bit more now and Saturday’s match is what dreams are made of for everyone – not just the players, but the supporters as well.
“There has been a lot of hype about my performances over the last couple of weeks. It has been good because they have been on TV, although there is now a lot of pressure on me to perform.”
At this stage he has no idea which one of Guardiola’s plethora of star names he will be playing against, but he has an idea who would best suit his style of play.
“I know Benjamin Mendi isn’t going to play, so there are three others who I could face – Alex Zinchenko, Danilo or Fabian Delph,” he said.
“I’d prefer to play against Delph because he’s not a natural left back. That would be ideal for me, although I call him a proper player.
“He’s not a City style player, a David Silva or someone like that, he’s a lot more of a man. If I play against him it will be tough physically, but I would fancy myself.”