BOSS Pete Old admitted East Christchurch SSC had already exceeded expectations in the FA Sunday Cup – and pinned their success on WhatsApp.

East Christchurch, making their debut in the national competition, on Sunday face Birstall Stamford at Hurn Bridge (2pm) with an historic spot in the last four on the line.

The club's journey to the quarter-final is the joint-furthest any Bournemouth Hayward Football League side has gone in the competition, with Branksome Railway exiting at this stage in 2014.

Old insisted he would be proud of his team whatever the outcome against the unbeaten Leicestershire outfit, following a staggering turnaround since he took the manager's post on his own two and half years ago.

He told the Daily Echo: “There had been turbulent six months before I took the reins myself. The turning point has been WhatsApp.

“Our captain (Sam Kennedy) came up with the idea of creating a group chat and since we did that, the togetherness grew.

“We went on a great run purely because we had a great camaraderie. It brought harmony back to the squad. Some days you wake up to see 45 messages and it is unreal.

“We didn't know what to expect from the competition. To get this far and to be the final southern team left is a real testament to the lads.

“We need to go into the game with no fear and play our own game with our tenacious attitude.

“If we get through, happy days. If not, we had an incredible journey.

“As much as we want to keep going, if our journey does end, we need to look at the bigger picture and hold our heads high."

Last season's Hayward League champions have 22 players available to fill the 16-man matchday squad, leaving Old with a selection headache.

“As much as I lean on the five-man management team around me, I need to make those decisions myself," said Old, who played for Wessex League sides Christchurch and Ringwood.

“There is going to be six unhappy lads come Sunday and there will be sleepless nights for me as I try to pick the squad.

“While a lot of people around the area will be first to say they do not think highly of us as individuals, I know for a fact some local managers will say they are jealous of our team spirit and togetherness.

“As a squad we are right up there. I have played in more talented squads but none can match the spirit this group has.

“The competition is an opportunity for us to test ourselves against the best Sunday league sides in the country and we have done that very well so far."

Mike Fowler, president and chairman of the Hayward League, said: "East Christchurch SSC have done the league proud by reaching the last eight of such a prestigious competition.

"It's an excellent achievement and we wish them every success on Sunday."