Meeting Tranmere in the FA Cup will be bigger occasion than facing Manchester City for Chichester City's former Portsmouth winger

Kaleem Haitham. Picture: Mick YoungKaleem Haitham. Picture: Mick Young
Kaleem Haitham. Picture: Mick Young
Kaleem Haitham believes facing Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup will be a bigger occasion for him than when he faced Manchester City.

The former Pompey youth product is part of the Chichester City squad that will take on the League One outfit in a televised second-round encounter on Sunday.

Chi could be roared on by more than 1,000 fans on what will be the biggest footballing day for nearly all of the management and players involved with the Oaklands Park outfit.

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But for Haitham it will not be the first time he will have been part of a big cup tie.

The 21-year-old, who made one senior Pompey appearance, came through club’s academy system and featured in the FA Youth Cup.

Haitham was part of the Blues team that were beaten 2-1 in the competition by Manchester City at Fratton Park back in 2015.

On that occasion, more than 2,000 supporters were in attendance at PO4.

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However, the Chichester winger insisted being part of the FA Cup tie at Tranmere will surpass his previous career highlight.

‘The two years I was there as an apprentice, I played in it (the FA Youth Cup),’ said Haitham.

‘We played against Man City at Fratton Park, and that was my biggest highlight to date.

‘But this FA Cup run has blown that out of the water.

‘At a guess, I think it was a good 2,000 there on the day.

‘It was the most we’ve ever had at an FA Youth Cup game. Everyone was there, friends and family, it was crazy.

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‘But now this game, you can’t even imagine what’s going to happen.’

Haitham said he had no regrets following his Pompey release at the age of 18.

The Bedhampton-based winger pursued a football career in America before returning to England.

Now in his third season at Chichester, Haitham feels he is progressing in senior football.

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‘Not from my point of view. (there are no regrets),’ he added.

‘I dedicated myself fully to football and I still do now.

‘At 18 it’s hard because you’re not fully a man, you’ve still got growing up to do.

‘I just told myself to be thick-skinned, keep my head up and don’t let it get down on me.

‘When I first came it was a bit of a shock, men’s football is completely different to youth football.

‘But when you do start getting used to it, from this year we’ve progressed massively.

‘A lot of things are different around the club, it’s good to be here at the moment.’

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