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Cards let the Drog out

MAX Kretzschmar has developed a useful knack of scoring goals in important games – it’s even earned him the nickname of the Non-League Didier Drogba!

The Woking midfielder is enjoying one of his best seasons yet under boss Alan Dowson which has seen the part-time Cards become one of the National League’s early surprise packages once again.

Kretzschmar, with his energy but also craft, has played a big part and contributed five goals in all competitions.

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He’s worked his way into the team after netting the winner against local rivals Aldershot Town in the FA Cup and then one at Gillingham in the first round.

Dowson can always count upon Kretzschmar on the big stage – he scored a late equaliser in Woking’s play-off semi final in 2019 too – just like Chelsea and the Ivory Coast could on serial winner Drogba.

“I don’t know where it comes from but I definitely enjoy it!” Kretzschmar, a Chelsea fan, told The NLP. “The gaffer said before the Gillingham game, ‘Max is going to play on the right wing and you know he’s going to score!’ I came in at half-time after scoring and he was like, ‘I told you lot!’

“It’s a nice knack to have and a bit of a reputation but I want to score in all sorts of games. The last week has been really enjoyable and I’ve been able to do that.”

It was both Kretzschmar and the club’s best week of the season so far as they thumped Dover Athletic 5-1 on their own patch before beating Barnet 4-1 despite playing with ten men for an hour.

The 27-year-old scored twice and assisted two to help move Woking third, similar to their flying start of last season, and feels staying injury free has played a big part in his form.

“I’ve been working hard and stayed patient when I was out of the team at the start,” he said, now in his fourth season under Dowson, having also played for him at Hampton & Richmond, and his second spell at Woking. “I scored in the first game but didn’t play great and I was then on the bench.

“I came on against Aldershot and scored, sometimes it just takes a spark like that and gives you a bit of belief. I feel great, really fit and just want to stay away from injuries. I know if I do I’ll always score goals, I have a habit of getting in the right position at the right time.

“I think maybe 18 months ago or less I’d been written off a little bit because I’d become a bit-part player due to injuries which coincided with lack of form and confidence, but I’m really glad to be back and a big part of the team and just want to help us going forward.”

Woking’s positive start has come after a tricky summer where Dowson lost influential players like striker Jake Hyde, winger Jamar Loza, midfielder Shaun Donnellan and centre-back Moussa Diarra.

A 3-1 defeat at Hampton on the eve of the new season was as a concern, but the manager has proved again why he’s one of Non-League’s hottest properties by using the loan market astutely but also forming a determined squad.

“I spoke to my mum and dad after that game and said I back Dowse in this situation every single time,” said Kretzschmar. “He gets on the phone and manages to bring in loanees or players who have been written off or bright young prospects, and gets players who want to work their socks off for each other. Time and time again he does it so I had no worries.”

Josh Davison, a striker on loan from Charlton, has scored five goals in six while Kane Ferdinand, Woking’s current longest-serving player, has been superb in midfield alongside new signing Charlie Cooper.

And the future looks bright too with Woking set to take on Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow night in the FA Youth Cup third round, a stage they haven’t reached for 25 years.

It’s an aspect of the club Kretzschmar knows well having worked as a coach in the academy since the beginning of last season, an area, along with his first degree honours in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting, he’s keen to explore further.

“I wanted to have a degree and coaching B License, that I’m doing now, by the time I was 30,” he said. “It’s been really rewarding working with the youth team. A lot of them are training with the first team at the minute, four or five regulars and 13 trained on Tuesday.

“Scott Harrison, the academy manager has been so good with me, so encouraging but he also really wants me there because he can see what I can offer being a player in the first team and the players looking up to me to try and get to the level of a National League player.

“The bridge between the first team and the youth team has definitely narrowed. There’s open communication between both departments and I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some debuts from some of the boys. We’ve got some exceptional players.”

This article was brought to you by The Non-League Paper, the UK's best-selling football title on the newsstand, on-sale every Sunday.
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