Ben Burgess column: Wembley was always my theatre of dreams

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess
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The greatest club competition in the world? Most people in the current crazy cash rich world of football would choose the Champions League.

It wasn’t always so. Most people my age and older will tell you that they didn’t run around the playground at school pretending to score the winner at a random European ground.

Instead, the scene was always set at Wembley, the last minute of the oldest football competition in the world and popping up to score the winner in one of the most famous and iconic stadiums on the globe.

Yes, I’m talking about the F.A Cup – the competition that dates all the way back to 1871 and the one I always dreamed of winning as a kid growing up.

Sadly, it was also one that brought me very little success.

It was Monday night’s FA Cup third round draw that got me feeling all magical and nostalgic.

Blackpool no longer have the privilege of starting in the third round and have had to go through the painstaking first and second rounds, in which the potential banana skins are littered like a track on Mario Kart.

The Seasiders’ reward for their tight 1-0 victory over Brackley Town was their third home tie of the competition, but this time against a decent Barnsley side.

My early memories of watching the FA Cup on TV were of the monumental games between Liverpool and Crystal Palace, not to mention the plethora of giantkillers over the years, from Aylesbury FC and their duck celebration to Wrexham’s humbling of Arsenal in 1991-92.

Unfortunately, as a Manchester City fan, the cups (and the league) never brought us much success in the 1980s and ’90s.

It was a different cup competition altogether on Tuesday, when Blackpool lined up against Doncaster, also one that not many managers are taking too seriously.

That was evident in Gary Bowyer’s decision to make 10 changes to his starting line-up, but this also goes to show the strength in depth that he has at his disposal after Blackpool managed to win on penalties.

While this competition has rightly been derided by many, the one positive is the chance for the Academy players to get a taste of (nearly) real first team football.

At the Keepmoat Stadium, it was the turn of youngsters Christian N’Guessan and Rowan Roache to be involved, and it was great to see Roache come on and score a penalty.

Gary Bowyer, throughout his managerial career at Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool, has always given youngsters a chance to play.

This is incredibly important to inspire the Academy players and give them the belief that if they do work hard, there is always the possibility that the manager will use them.

When I was an apprentice at Blackburn Rovers, I was scoring goals in the youth team and reserves and training the odd time with the first team.

Then suddenly, in the space of a few months, they signed Nathan Blake (£4m ), Ashley Ward (£4m ), Corrado Grabbi (£6m) and Egil Ostenstad.

As you can imagine, with this glut of strikers we had, I couldn’t even get into the reserve team, let alone the first team!

Thankfully, Blackpool have a good reputation at the moment for producing and then giving an opportunity to the youngsters.

Ciaran Donnelly has done a fantastic job coaching the players in the correct way.

It will make his job easier in the future if parents can see that if their son signs for Blackpool he has more chance of progressing than at a Premier League giant, where the kids are just a number and can get completely lost in the system.