Kevin Watson will hope it’s a case of hero to zero this weekend as he goes head to head with a man he used to watch admiringly from the East London terraces.
Having seen off former Swindon Town teammate Ian Culverhouse in the previous round of the Buildbase FA Trophy, when Watson’s 10 men defeated the King’s Lynn manager and his side, the Fleet boss has another figure from his history to do battle with on Saturday.
The 53-year-old Royston Town boss Steve Castle was a tough central midfielder in his playing days and he spent 10 years with Leyton Orient across three spells. In his first stay, from 1984 to 1992, Castle used to impress a young Watson who studied the tenacious player’s midfield qualities from the sidelines.
“I know his teams will reflect him,” Watson said of the man he faces in the Crows’ dugout on Saturday. “He was a little bit of a hero of mine when he played for Leyton Orient. I grew up the other side of Hackney Marshes so me and my dad used to go and watch them every Saturday when I was a little ‘un.
“He was a completely different footballer to what I was. He was a hardworking, roll-your-sleeves-up captain, a real leader. He will have them playing like that and they’re no mugs. If we’re not at our best, we’ll come unstuck, so we will be doing our very best to make sure we are.”
Castle played for 20 years, most of it in the Football League with Orient, Plymouth Argyle, Birmingham City and Peterborough United before finishing his playing career in non-league with Stevenage and St Albans City.
He and Watson would have faced off as players in 1999 (for Peterborough and Rotherham respectively) but this will be the first time the two shake hands as managers.
Castle, previously manager of St Albans, has been in charge at Royston for six years and guided them to two runners-up placings in the Southern League Division One Central before winning the title and promotion in 2017. He now has the Crows eyeing promotion to the National League South for the first time in their 145-year history.