AS EAST Thurrock prepared to go out for what would be a crazy FA Cup replay at Rookery Hill on Tuesday night, skipper Reiss Gilbey told the team: “leave nothing out on the pitch”.

It’s a mind-set that has served Gilbey well. At 21, he’s one of the youngest captain’s in football, from non-league to Premier League.

With a keen eye for a pass, bags of ability and three goals to boot already this season, Gilbey’s a midfielder who himself ensures nothing is left on the pitch.

After heeding their young captain’s pre-match advice and giving absolutely everything, a penalty shootout was just a stretch too far for the Corringham-based Ryman Premier team, who had matched their Blue Square South opponents and at times, outclassed them, over 310 minutes of football.

“In the dressing room before the game, I told the boys not to regret anything and not to leave anything on the pitch and we didn’t. Afterwards, I said to them I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there with anyone else.

“There was nothing between us and Chelmsford. Penalties was a hard way to lose, but there was nothing else that could separate us.”

But Gilbey, a former pupil at St Clere’s and now junior broker in the City believes the cup hurt can spur Rocks on.

“Hopefully we can kick on. I think Tuesday’s result has got to spur us on. This is the start of the season now. We’ve got a good league position, which could be better, but we go again on Saturday.”

Operation bounce-back begins on Saturday as Rocks host local rivals Thurrock in a mouth-watering FA Trophy derby.

Fleet will be no easy task for Rocks though. Mark Stimson’s men are starting to find their feet after a summer of wholesale changes.

Two impressive draws in their last two league games, against high flying opposition have shown that Thurrock are moving in the right direction, despite not yet moving from the foot of the Ryman Premier League.

But as the non-league schedule swings us from one big game to the next, Saturday’s tie holds extra significance for Gilbey. He played youth team football at Thurrock and got his chance in the first team at 17, playing two full seasons there before leaving to join Rocks.

He carved for himself a path similar to that of rising Thurrock star Frank Griffin, who has secured a place in the first team after coming through the youth system. The 17-year-old defensive midfielder has defied his age with some excellent performances of late.

Gilbey said: “When the draw came out, I had a big smile on my face. I’ve not met them since leaving. I see a few of the Thurrock fans on the train every day, and there’s a bit of healthy banter, they say they’ve got a song ready for me, so I can’t wait for it.

“I’ll always be grateful, particularly to Tommy Smith [Thurrock chairman]. There have been a lot of changes in personnel since I was there, it’s been a while. But I’ll always be grateful.”

While it was Thurrock where it all started for Gilbey, his rise has been fantastic under Rocks boss John Coventry, a man he’s known since the age of seven.

After the home win to Lewes, Coventry described Gilbey as the hardest working player he’d ever come across, and hailed the decision to make him captain as the management team’s best of the season.

“I was delighted [to be made captain]. I think being so young I was a bit apprehensive, but the boys have been so supportive. I’m lucky to be a part of that group of lads so that helps.

“I just hope I’m doing the right job.”

Fleet, who went on a decent FA Cup run themselves, securing a hard-fought replays with Conference South side Welling, before being narrowly beaten at Ship Lane in the third qualifying round, will go into the Trophy tie rested after a week without a game.

It is likely that the eleven who drew with Margate last Saturday will line up against Rocks.

Key battles: Sam Higgins vs Matt Turpin; Kris Newby vs Ben Walster; Reiss Gilbey vs Stuart Thurgood; Simon Peddie vs Charlie Stimson