MARK Halstead admitted his mum was “probably having kittens” as she watched her son make an unexpected but memorable Premier League bow.
The homegrown local lad, a pupil at Collegiate High School just a few years ago, made his Blackpool FC debut for the injured Richard Kingson in the second half of the Seasiders’ clash with Chelsea at Bloomfield Road.
Halstead said: “It is always nice to make your debut, but with it coming against the champions that was great,” the keeper said.
“It is just disappointing that we didn’t get the result we wanted and hoped for.”
Halstead didn’t put a foot wrong, entering the fray when Pool were already 3-0 behind and making good stops from, among others, £50m man Fernando Torres.
“Yeah, it’s always nice to stop a big-name player from scoring,” said the 21-year-old, with some understatement as he reflected on a clean sheet in his time on the pitch.
“The crowd were great with me. They were right behind me as soon as I came on.
“I suppose it’s not nice having a 20-year-old debutant keeper coming on, but the supporters were terrific and every credit to them.”
Just about the only thing missing from Halstead’s dream night were his family but he dedicated his display to them.
He added: “I owe everything to them ... all the times they have taken me to Monday night training at Kirkham, when I was in the Centre of Excellence. They’ve seen me through it.
“I would have liked them to be there last night but it wasn’t to be.
“My dad works shifts and couldn’t come. My mum was probably having kittens watching on the TV.
“I went to Collegiate and I’ve still got a few friends from there. I think a few of them were in the crowd.
“I didn’t want to turn around and look at them, but it was just nice because they’ve probably never seen me play before!”
It capped a decent week for Halstead, who saved a penalty in the reserves’ win over Liverpool on Thursday.
Last night marked his first league start for the club. He made his full debut at the beginning of the season in the Carling Cup, when Pool lost at MK Dons.
But Halstead has had plenty of experience of being around the first team this year, sitting on the bench for several games because of the injuries to Matt Gilks and Paul Rachubka.
“I’ve nearly got on a few times. It almost happened at Anfield,” added Halstead.
“Finally my chance has come, and although my heart was pounding a little at first I felt ready for it and I thought I did OK.
“It is great to say you’ve made your debut against the Premier League champions, but at the end of the day it is only 25 minutes, so it is nothing too big.
“There is still a lot of work for me to do yet, still a lot of improving to do, so hopefully I’ll keep getting better and the rest will come.”
That’s what is impressive about Halstead – he is young but has a sensible, down-to-earth attitude and an awareness that he needs to put in a lot more hard work if he’s going to make it.
But as starts go, this wasn’t bad to put it mildly, and hopefully there is plenty more to come from a very talented Blackpool-born lad.