FOR MANY non-professional football players, playing in the FA Cup 3rd round is what dreams are made of.
But these dreams came true for Blyth Spartans centre-back, Danny Parker, who played his part in Blyth’s heroic run to the 3rd round of the famous trophy, where they hosted Championship club Birmingham.
Psychology student Parker, 23, from Horden, came on as an 80th minute substitute for the Northern Premier League Premier Division side, who play in the seventh tier of English football.
The Spartans sensed a giant killing after being paired with Birmingham in the 3rd round, after beating Hartlepool United 1-2 in the 2nd round of the cup.
And things could have been so different, Blyth were 2-0 up at half time against Birmingham, but the quality of the Championship side shone through and thanks to a second-half turn around, beat the Spartans 2-3.
The Sunderland University student had a chance to equalise in the dying minutes of the game, but was denied a goal after a save from the Birmingham ‘keeper which tipped his powerful header onto the post.
Parker spoke to Tside reporter NATHAN LEE about his team’s famous FA Cup escapades.
“There are no regrets, I was on the bench until 80 minutes, and watching the lads lead by two goals in the first half was stuff what dreams are made of.
“We were talking on the bench half way through about who we could have in the next round!
“But it wasn’t meant to be but being part of such an occasion was just amazing.”
Blyth beat Hartlepool in the 2nd round, while playing in front of the BBC cameras who were televising the game live.
Newcastle legend, Alan Shearer, was covering the game with the BBC and Parker tells us how he gave a rousing pre-match team talk to the Spartans:
“I was in awe of what was going on!
“I just remember Shearer saying: “There’s going be a hero tonight, make sure he’s from this changing room” and it got us really fired up!”
Blyth came up against a plethora of international footballers in the Birmingham squad, including Nikola Zigic, who has played in two world cups against some of the best defenders in the world and Parker added:
“It was surreal at first trying to comprehend the kind of players they’ve come up against, even more surreal that Zigic has been marked by the likes of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique of Barcelona and now me!”
The Newcastle based team are now focusing their attention on mounting a promotion challenge, with the FA Cup run meaning they have 11 games in hand over other teams in their league.
“We’ve used the morale we’ve built up from our run and applied it to the league and we’re very confident regarding promotion.” Parker added.
For many lower league teams, the chance to play the big teams in football doesn’t come up very often and that’s what creates the magic of the FA Cup and Parker gave thanks to the teams supporters:
“The support was amazing, I had a lot of my close family and many friends who I hadn’t seen for a while travelling to watch the games, it meant so much.
“The fans, the desire of my team mates, the focus from the media and our opportunity to make dreams come true meant it was all just one big dream!”
Blyth’s run is now over, but the famous FA Cup run of 2014 will long stay in the memories of the Spartans.