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Alan Up For The Cup

4 December 2013

North End goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly is hoping the Lilywhites can gain similar FA Cup experiences to his own.

The former Republic of Ireland international custodian made his debut in the competition for the Lilywhites back in January 1987, thrown into the team to face Newcastle at St James’ Park on the day of the game.

It was a tasty first experience, but one he looks back on fondly: “My first memory would be with Preston in that fantastic promotion season of 1986/87,” he told the official website. “John McGrath had a great Cup run; Ronnie Hildersley scored the goal that beat Middlesbrough at Middlesbrough 1-0 and then it was on to Newcastle.

“David Brown went down with an injury or condition overnight before the game and I was called up. 

“It was a baptism of fire for me really, but it was a great experience in front of the Gallowgate End at Newcastle. 

“We lost on the day, but it was a fantastic day for me and I really enjoyed it and pleased to play a good part in it. They were good memories.”

It was not the only good Cup run he was part of, twice a semi-finalist in his time with Sheffield United, including the ‘Steel City Semi’, which is now 20 years ago.

“I got to the semi-final twice with Sheffield United,” he continued. “I played in the all Sheffield semi-final back in 1993. 

“Most people dubbed it the final – it was an incredible experience – I think most people in Sheffield went down to it. We out did ourselves in getting to the semi-final and unfortunately we lost in extra-time, but all these experiences were fantastic. 

“I also lost to Newcastle in 1997 as well, so I have been unlucky on two occasions, but also very fortunate to have had such a good run.

“I saved three penalties for Sheffield United in the quarter-final, at home, on St Patrick’s Day as well, which was an unbelievable night and so I have good memories of the Cup.”

This weekend North End will line up against a team led by a PNE fan favourite and Kelly was a team-mate of Gareth Ainsworth for a short spell before his move to Bramall Lane.

“I think I was his team-mate for about six months. 

“He came in from non-league, probably too many moons ago for both of us to remember, back in 1992! 

“Gareth’s done well for himself, had a great career and found himself in the managerial hot seat. It will be good to see him and go up against him.”

The second round is the doorstep to the big guns coming in and therefore every tie this weekend will be keenly contested, but for Kelly and the rest of the staff and players, he says it is about continuing the form they have recently been in.

“We played Blackpool at home in the League Cup earlier this season and the atmosphere was fantastic. 

“To have the chance to experience that sort of atmosphere again with opposition of the calibre of Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool, is a fantastic carrot for the players, staff and anyone involved at every club involved in round two. 

“If you can get into the third round and then sit and watch the TV for the draw, it is a fantastic feeling. 

“We also want to continue the way we are going in terms of results and how we are playing. 

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“People will say it is just another game, and that’s how we will treat it, but the romance of the Cup is there if you can earn a place in the third round,” he added.



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