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Up for the cup

Ronnie Henry.

Ronnie Henry.

Two best mates who went to school together could end up facing each other in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Luton Town captain Ronnie Henry will lead his team into a home game for the chance to become the first non-league squad to reach an FA Cup quarter final.

But he will be up against Millwall – and fellow defender Jack Smith, a classmate in their days at South Hill Primary School and Hemel Hempstead School.

Luton shocked football pundits by beating Premiership side Norwich City in the last round before being drawn against Championship outfit Millwall.

Jack, who now lives in Berkhamsted, said: “I can’t really picture Ronnie as a captain from what he was like at school. He was always joking and messing around and you could not picture him as the responsible type.

“He’s changed a bit since then like the most of us have – probably because he’s got two kids.”

Jack expects to find out tomorrow if he has been picked to play in Saturday’s televised game – but will relish the opportunity to step into Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road ground.

He said: “Their supporters are going to be quite vocal when Millwall turn up. We are going to get booed, but it should be a really good atmosphere.”

All 10,000 tickets for the match sold out within hours of going on sale last Monday.

The two 29-year-olds were on a team that made into the national final of a five-a-side football game when they were in Year 7 of Hemel Hempstead School.

They played together again in Year 9 to win the Herts County Cup and won the district cup every year they were at the school.

Former PE teacher Graham Cracknell said: “They were very, very talented sportsmen. Jack was attached to Watford when they first came to Hemel Hempstead School and Ronnie was attached to Spurs – but they did all sorts of activities.”

Ronnie, who now lives in Grovehill, said Jack was very shy and quiet as a child, but ‘great to grow up with’. He said: “On the pitch, we have a job to do and as soon as we finish, we are the best of friends again.”

If Jack plays on Saturday, it will be the first time the pair get to play against each other in a competitive game. Ronnie said: “It will be fun and games afterwards. One of us will end up losing and it will not be good straight away, because the banter will be flying.

“But it’s all fun and I just hope I come out the winner.”

***

Jack and Ronnie are with their five-aside Hemel Hempstead School football team in the group photo, when they were in Year 7. The team made it to the national final and got to meet Gareth Southgate.

Jack is on the left, with Gareth Southgate’s arm round his shoulder. Ronnie Henry on the far right.

 

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