the real fa cup

Hebburn Week – The Players

Chris Jewels – Captain
The first half is the way that we’ve been all of this season in the big games. We defend quite well as a team and at half-time, if you said we’d be 0-0, we would’ve snapped your hand off for that. They got the goal quite early at the start of the second half and maybe it dropped a few of our heads. Maybe it was down to fitness that was the difference on the day; our fitness dropped towards the end. Their ability showed in the second half.

Many thought before the game that we would be looking at a cricket score but we performed really well during the first half but then we tired during the second half. We’ve enjoyed the ride and that’s the main thing. We haven’t let ourselves down.”

Jeff Forsyth
“I thought we were brilliant [in the first half]. We defended well; we made it hard for them to get through; and they didn’t really have too many chances. We went in at half-time and our heads were still high – we were buzzing. They had a lot of the ball but they couldn’t break us down. We didn’t have many chances ourselves but with them being five leagues above us, we didn’t really expect to if I’m honest. To go in at half-time and still be 0-0 was excellent.

I think overall as a team, everyone played their part. Me and Jewelsy, as a pair at the back, were solid. [When the first goal went in] we kept our heads. The big thing in the second half was the fitness levels. They just had a bit too much for us. They didn’t really out-play us throughout the game, it was just the fitness. But then you can’t complain as they are a full-time team, they train every day and we train maybe once a week, so it’s understandable. We’ve got to be proud, definitely.”

Dean Nicholson
[If someone had told me we would be in the FA Cup and hold a professional team to 0-0 at half-time] then I wouldn’t have believed them. We’ve come a long, long way since August and we’ve signed some very, very good footballers – though we had some very good footballers last year. Every game that we’ve played in the FA Cup, we’ve probably been underdogs, whether it was Gillford Park away, Whitehaven away, and then the better clubs that have come along. We’ve went out today and by far we haven’t disgraced ourselves. It was 0-0 at half-time and we seen a chance, maybe we could’ve nicked one, but fitness and sharpness has played a part.

We’ve come a long way and we’ve had a lovely weekend, we had one two weeks ago and we’ve had another one now, we’re all buzzing, and we’ll now kick on and, hopefully, get promotion.

[Promotion] was the main aim at the start of the season and we’ve got enough quality, I believe, to do it. We’ve only played eight league games and we have a lot to play in November. We need some wins on the board and we need to catch up with those teams at the top. We beat Team North in our last game so our form is good and we’ve got Northallerton next week which is our bread and butter.

It’s been a lovely distraction (the Cup) and we’ve had a lovely day and weekend, but it was going to come to an end at some point.  We wish Gateshead all the best and hopefully they’ll get a good draw in the next round. They are a good side and probably deserved to win on the day.

[When Lunn crossed the ball over near the end] I didn’t know whether to take a touch or not. I would have celebrated, mind – even at 3-0 – if I scored. As it came across I seen the lights and then hit it just past the post. One might go in next Saturday! It was a game of limited chances and they are a good side, well organised, they work hard and, as a full-time team they were expected to win. They should have had more than three to be fair – I’m not sure if Bogie is happy with 3-0.

I think if we had come away losing by seven or eight then we would’ve looked at ourselves and maybe thought it was a bit of a disgrace, but every man, every single one of us, not just those on the pitch, but the subs who came on and done well, can all hold our heads up. Gateshead are a very good side and we’ve given it our all; we’ve got nothing left in the tank. Unfortunately we’ve come up against a better side today, but we might get them back next year … you never know.

Without a doubt this Cup run has improved spirit in the team. We’ve got some spirit there anyway, as you’ve experienced yourself over the past 24 hours. There’s never one argument; there’s twenty mates there who will run, fight, head balls, block balls, all for each other. That’s what we’ve gained since August. We’ve ran along beaches; we’ve ran up and down stairs; we’ve ran all over the place together. Hopefully we can go and get promotion and get to where we think we should be. And if we can get a little run in the League Cup or the Earnest Armstrong Cup then so be it.”

John Toomey
“It’s been a massive trip from start to finish and today was the icing on the cake for me personally. From the first game, I’ve experienced great, great things with the club. I’ve only been here about six months and you can see that we’re going places and it’s nice to be a part of that. For [Bennett and Wood] to put faith in you like they do is just brilliant; I’m really enjoying it.

From the minute we went into the changing rooms, I just wanted to be stripped and out on the pitch. I felt caged in the changing rooms! You can come here and get bogged down with all of the administration beforehand, getting ready, knowing your role – but really you just want to be out there and soaking in the atmosphere.

This has been the highlight of my career. I’ve played for some very good teams such as South Shields, Seaham Red Star, Ryhope, but today, the club that I’m at and the players I’m playing with, are as good as anything that I’ve played with. We’ve got great ability and as long as we keep our self-belief, we should do really well this season. I’ve got faith in every single one of the lads, they can all put a shift in and they are as good as anyone in the Northern League on their day.

In the Northern League Second Division there are some very good sides but with the ability in our changing room, we have to be looking at top three this season and promotion. We’re a very good team and we’ve proved that in our Cup run. We’ve competed with teams from higher levels and we’ve got to be looking for the top three.

It’s been a bit frustrating that people have been making comments at work, saying that we’re dropping away in the league, but they don’t look at how many games we’ve played. It’ll be nice to get a couple of league games under our belt, hopefully get a couple of wins, and see ourselves climbing that table again.”

Dan Regan
[The save that was made in the build up to Shaw’s second] I didn’t know much about to be honest. I made myself big, spread myself, and it hit off my knees. By the time I got back up, it was already at his feet. The luck on the day was with them. Don’t get me wrong, they did deserve to win and they were the better team, but little things like that, where the ball comes off you and could go out for a corner or go to one of you own team, but today it fell into his path and he’s put it in past me. It was a great finish in the end.

I was more nervous getting here than I was when I actually got here. The nerves were still there, but once I had been out to warm up, the nerves all just went and it was just like any other game. When we were in the tunnel, the nerves were still affecting me and then we came out and I heard the fans and I never looked at them. Once I had to turn round and face them, I realised how many there were! It was a good atmosphere. With it being such a big stadium and being a bit away from the main stand, at times it didn’t seem like there were many people there, especially when you looked at the other three stands and there not being anybody there. I honestly thought that there were 400 people there. I’m used to people standing, dotted around the ground, and I never expected to be playing in front of 1,200 people. I started the season at Washington who weren’t even in the FA Cup.

I had a save to make from a header in the first half and then one towards the end, but most of their efforts were from outside of the box. They got three goals in about fifteen minutes and that’s the first time that we’ve been behind in the FA Cup this season. We didn’t disgrace ourselves but, looking back, we’re still disappointed.”

Lee Harrison
“I’m definitely proud today; without a doubt. During the first half, I thought we matched them. They had a lot possession-wise, but they didn’t really create as much as what I thought they would. It was an exceptional first half from the lads. We closed them down and done everything right, everything that we were told to do. The second half they came out, after a rollicking, and they were a bit quicker. When that first goal went in, it was a bit of a killer, but I still thought that we had chances in the game. Then the second goal went in and it dropped us. I always thought that we did well; very, very well.

The atmosphere in the dressing room at half-time was excellent. We thought we had a chance, which was right. They had created one or two chances but nothing that really threatened us too much. We’ve come up against a team that are five tiers above us and we had a chance for most of the game.”

Stuart Nicholson
“I made my professional debut when I was 18 in the FA Cup for West Brom when we played against Reading and that was a massive experience, and then things have happened and I’m at Hebburn Town now, and to get as far as we have done has been a massive achievement. Today it was unbelievable to be playing against Gateshead, and I think that does beat the debut; it betters it and it tops it off.

This is the best set of lads that I’ve played with; the banter is unbelievable and I’d definitely compare it with the Crazy Gang spirit at Wimbledon. I’ve had ups and downs during my career, which, with no disrespect, has resulted in me being where I am now, but I’m now enjoying football again, and there has to be full credit to Benno and Woody for that. They are the reason that I’m here at Hebburn.

I’ve played under Bryan Robson and Tony Mowbray and you’d never speak to them, you’d never hear a word from them other than being on the bench and being brought on. These lads knew I was in Australia and they were ringing me most weekends when I was over there to see if I wanted to come back. I don’t think Bryan Robson or Tony Mowbray would’ve done that. I came back to play for them [Benno and Woody].”

Chris Lunn
“I came in at 2-0 down but was warming up at 1-0 down. I hoped to come on and make a bit of an effect but when I came on, we’d lost our heads a bit because of being exhausted and [the second goal] just killed us a bit. There was about twenty minutes left when I came on and I was trying to get up to the pace; it was frantic and Gateshead were pushing the pace.

There were nerves before the game, especially for the lads. I knew how big this was for the club and how much work the committee had put in – they really deserved this. But then when I came on, I wanted to do myself proud and that was a main aim.”

Chris Bannon
“I’ve been injured and so not been playing, but the lads have kept me involved throughout [the Cup run]. I’ve stayed in the hotel, we’ve all had a great time, and it’s brought us all together. It’s been great being included. It’s been annoying that I can’t be involved, but when the lads have been preparing, I’ve been down the pool trying to train and taking my mind off [what’s going on]. As good as everything has been for the lads, I’m frustrated that I can’t play, but being injured, there’s nothing I can do about it. The lads have all been superb, though.”

Interviews: Andy Hudson of Gannin’ Away and Blagul Fotboll fame.

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