Charlie Grainger HERO

Grainger seeks debut season cup triumph

Hastings United vs. Horsham

The final of the Sussex Transport Senior Cup is set to be played on Wednesday 8 May 2024 between Hastings United and Horsham.

Hastings United vs. Horsham
Sussex Transport Senior Cup Final
Date: Wednesday 8 May 2024
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Venue: American Express Stadium, Village Way, Brighton, BN1 9BL

For Hastings United goalkeeper, Charlie Grainger, it’s been an eventual first season with the U’s to say the least, with managerial changes, a play-off push and now a Sussex Transport Senior Cup Final to cap it all off.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster that’s for sure,” said Grainger, “I arrived in the summer and we started on a great run, but then things just took a turn, and all of a sudden it was lose, lose, lose and we couldn’t get back on track.

“Then of course the gaffer [Chris Agutter] comes in and just transforms things, from us floating around the relegation zone, to punching for a potential play-off spot, which I think you have to take as a good result for the season, if you consider how things looked before he came in.”

Agutter’s arrival certainly galvanised a squad that seemed devoid of confidence, so is there anything in particular he’s done that Grainger can point to as being a key factor in their fortunes reversing?

“We’re quite a young team, so the main thing we needed was belief, and that’s exactly what he [Agutter] gave us,” said Grainger, “we’ve been able then to build on his ideas and execute his plan, and as a group, we’ve come such a long way since he came in.”

As Grainger alludes to, Hastings do have a young squad, with Grainger, at 27, one of the senior members of the side.

“It's quite strange being, at just 27 years old, one of the oldest in the dressing room,” said Grainger, “a few of the younger lads do come along and ask about my experiences, which I’m happy to share because I’ve been around the game for a fair few years, even though I like to think I’m not that old yet!

“But it’s great to be able to help those younger players in any way I can, and the backline in front of me have been excellent and have shown such maturity this season.”

Grainger has endeared himself to the Hastings faithful quickly this season, in no small part thanks to his penalty shootout performance in the Third Round of the competition, when his side edged Crawley Down Gatwick.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve got a specialised approach or anything to penalties,” said Grainger, “I just take a good look at the player, and then it’s just trusting my instinct or if they’ve done something in the game that might give away where they’re going to put it, and luckily enough I’ve guessed okay over the years!”

Charlie isn’t the only Grainger to have made a career out on the football pitch, with his father, defender Martin Grainger, having featured for a number of Football League sides, including turning out over 200 times for Birmingham City.

“Growing up he had very high standards of me as a player that’s for sure,” said Grainger, “but looking back I wish I’d been a bit older when he was still playing, because he retired through injury at 29, but I do remember some of it, and yeah life was just football, football, football.

“But he’s been brilliant, travelling with me for every match, home or away, and no matter what kind of game I’ve had, the best or the worst, he’ll be on hand to give me advice on where I could look to improve.

“Of course, being a bit older now helps because we can have more of a conversation about it, rather than him just shouting at me!”

Looking ahead to the final tomorrow, Grainger and Hastings come up against an opponent in Horsham they know only too well through their encounters in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

“When we’ve played them, they’ve been tough games, but in both games, once we got into the groove of it, we created good chances, but just couldn’t put the ball in the net, so we know what we’re capable of when we come up against them.”

It goes without saying though that in the final itself, under the lights of the Amex Stadium, previous results go out the window, and a whole new load of pressure is added on, so how does Grainger see that external noise playing a part?

“For me, I’ll be honest, we just have to see it as another game, because if we take a step back and remember we’re in the final and playing at the Amex, it could get on top of you,” said Grainger.

“We’ve just got to take it as it comes, and hopefully we can go out and lift the trophy at the end of it.”

Witnessing their side life the Sussex Transport Senior Cup would be a fitting reward for the Hastings supporters, who Grainger is quick to laud praise on.

“I’ll be honest they have helped us a lot in games this season,” said Grainger, “even before the game, home or away, all you can hear is the Hastings fans.

“I’ve played at some clubs with some great support over the years, but I’ve never seen a fanbase follow their team with the passion and dedication of the Hastings fans!”

Tickets can be purchased online from the Brighton & Hove Albion ticket portal. 

£12.00 Adult
£6.00 Under-18 / 65+
£3.00 Official Match Day Programme

For further details about the Sussex Transport Senior Cup please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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