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Bevan keeping Torquay's Cup dream alive

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Chris Bevan | 07:20 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

The romantics amongst you hoping to see an FA Cup fairytale unfold this season might be looking at Crawley Town's tie with Torquay United this weekend and licking your lips at the prospect of a non-league side making the fifth round. After all, only five teams from outside the Football League have reached that stage since the end of World War II - and none of them got any further.

Any purists, however, should probably be aware of the huge amount of money the big-spending Blue Square Premier leaders have spent on their squad in the last few months as part of what they term 'Project Promotion'. Crawley are minnows in the loosest sense of the word.

But luckily you don't even have to leave Plainmoor to find a true tale of an attempt to triumph against the odds in round four. The key to the Gulls' hopes of reaching the last 16 for the first time in their 111-year history lies with inspirational goalkeeper Scott Bevan, a man who has come within a couple of kicks of entering Cup folklore before now and also had a brush with death along the way. Now that's what I call a fairytale in the making.

Bevan saved a spot-kick in a shoot-out against Stoke in 2006... but still lost. Photo: Getty

As Bevan (who is no relation by the way!) told me, it's not even clear who the underdog will be on Saturday. "On paper we are a division above and at home so you would think we are favourites," he said. "A few of my mates have rung me up saying 'You have a great chance of getting through now'.

"But then you look at the money Crawley have chucked around and you realise they have got a bigger budget than most League One sides, let alone ones like us in League Two, so they are going to fancy their chances as well."

It's immediately apparent the Cup means a lot to Bevan, and it's also obvious why - it offers the chance of a rare day in the sun. Players like him who ply their trade entirely in the lower divisions can dream of becoming a giantkilling hero or taking on world-class players even though they have no hope of lifting the famous old trophy itself.

"For a club of Torquay's size to get through to the fifth round would be fantastic but, as an individual, you want your little moment of glory too," the affable 31-year-old explained.

"I went down to the club to watch the fourth-round draw and we were first out of the hat. It felt like a bit of an anti-climax when Crawley and Derby came out next (they played their tie the next day) because even if you have got no chance of getting a result against the big-boys, you want the experience of playing the top internationals.

"To get past Crawley and hopefully get a big team next is our incentive but that will be the same for them too."

Bevan's nomadic career has contained plenty of highs within the context of his modest surroundings - he helped Torquay get back into the Football League in 2009 and contested the first competitive match at the new Wembley when Kidderminster lost the 2007 FA Trophy final against Stevenage.

He has played his part in plenty of Cup upsets too, most recently helping Torquay reach the fourth-round in the same year they went up and also helping part-timers Tamworth reach the third round in 2006 while he was on loan from MK Dons.

Including this season, he has claimed a total of six League One scalps in the competition while playing at least one level lower, but you get the feeling he won't be satisfied until he collects the career-defining seismic shock he craves.

He has come frustratingly close in the past too. "It has been a case of so near but so far on a few occasions," the former Southampton trainee recalled. "Torquay gave Coventry a real battering two years ago and then they got a winner in the last minute which was a sickening feeling.

"I came even closer with Tamworth when we took Stoke to a replay and forced a shoot-out. You don't get a lot of recognition at that level and I remember thinking before it started that this is my moment to get into the limelight."

Bevan did his bit too, saving one penalty to take the spot-kicks to sudden death - but could not repeat the trick, and a miss by his team-mate Michael Touhy meant the tie was lost. "I was distraught," he said.

He was left feeling a lot worse only a week later after an incident which almost meant sudden death on a very different level. Bevan went up for a cross during a league game against Forest Green and took a stray kick in his side from Rovers striker Julian Alsop, which initially seemed harmless enough.

Bevan has rebuilt his career since his freak kidney injury. Photo: Getty

"I had to come off because I was winded straightaway and I thought I might have cracked a rib," Bevan explained. "But as soon as I got home after the game, I started being sick. I went to hospital and they put me on a drip, rushed me to A&E for an X-ray and told me I had shattered my kidney and it would have to be removed.

"I was in intensive care for a few days and in a coma. When I woke up my first question was whether I was going to be alright and my second was whether I could play football again because it was all I had ever known since the age of 16. The doctors turned around and said 'no'. It was a devastating few days.

"Just before it happened, it had just struck me for the first time how big the Cup was because of the recognition we had got at Tamworth in newspapers and on TV. It gave me a taste of how the top stars live and I was on a high. I went from that to the worst moment of my life."

Fortunately, Bevan was able to make a full recovery, and along with Brighton defender Jim McNulty, he is one of only two professional footballers in England to have only one kidney (Bolton striker Ivan Klasnic has two after a successful transplant).

"Once I got home and started going to the gym again to get a bit of fitness back the doctors were quite pleased with my progress and they eventually gave me the all clear after a few month," Bevan said. "They warned me that that if I took another knock it would be more serious but the risks were minimal so it was up to me - I had no doubts I wanted to get back into football and I have had no problems since."

After a successful stint with Kidderminster, he joined Torquay, initially on loan in September 2008, where he has been ever since. "I'd had 12 clubs before I came here, so to stay for a couple of years and counting is great.

"I'm used to being in relegation scraps so to win promotion back to the League was a fantastic feeling, and we still have a chance of going up again this season, too."

The Cup will again take priority this weekend, but will Bevan's big day end in disappointment again? Not if he can help it.

"From my own experiences, I know Crawley will come here without any fear and play with freedom," Bevan said. "I'm sure that will have been the way they approached their game with Derby last time out.

"But we are full of confidence too and we will be giving it our all. It is going to be a battle and a really physical game but, as long as we get through, that is all that matters. This time, a last-minute winner would be nice."

Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/chrisbevan_bbc

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great article but I beliece Ex Irish international is a former player who only had 1 kidney if I am not mistaken.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great article!

    Let's hope Torquay can win this one and set up a 5th round tie with Everton at Goodison! Plus it would make Helen Chamberlain happy and that is always a good thing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great piece, this guy has been through a lot so I will be rooting for him tomorrow. Good luck to you, you deserve some.

  • Comment number 4.

    A real footballer playing real football, excellent stuff

  • Comment number 5.

    As a Torquay fan it would be absolutely fantastic to get through to the fifth round for the first time in our history. For a club our size, one of the smallest in the league, it would be a magnificent achievement. We took Coventry to the cleaners in the fourth round a couple of years ago, but didn't score and paid the price in the last minute. Would be great to rectify that at the weekend and get a big draw.

    Have seen Bevan play countless times now, and he's been a fantastic keeper for us since he arrived. I knew about this story before it popped up on here, but its nice to see some recognition given to players like him. He's truly an inspiration, and unlike the top stars, if he hadn't been able to play again he would have lost his livelihood.

    Will be at plainmoor tomorrow hoping to see a victory. Come on you Yellows!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Inspirational, but his kidney experience throws up a question. We are told that the human body can function perfectly well on just 1 kidney, so why did the doctors say he couldn't play again? Is there something that they are not telling us about your health if you were to donate a kidney?

  • Comment number 7.

    Brighton's Jim McNulty lost his kidney after being kicked by a Crewe player in 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McNulty_%28footballer%29
    I know he's been on loan to Scunthorpe this season but it is a bit harsh to say that he isn't a footballer!

  • Comment number 8.

    Willo77

    I think the inference is that were he to get a kick on the other side and damage his remaining kidney, the consequences could be very serious. And yes, you can live quite happily with one kidney, there are many that do. They just don't have a "spare" should anything go wrong.

  • Comment number 9.

    Interesting story but I`ll save my sympathy for him for tomorrow when his team get smashed by the mighty Reds! Come on!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for the comments so far... I think Scott deserves a bit of luck on Saturday because he has taken everything life has thrown at him in his stride.

    6 & 8/ Yep, it is down to the risk of taking another kick when you've only got one kidney rather than any health issue.

    7/ seagulldave, I've amended that now to mention Jim McNulty - I see his kidney problem came after he suffered a (accidental) kick too... I'm surprised this sort of thing doesn't happen more often.

    Here's more on Ivan Klasnic by the way, who had TWO kidney transplants while he was at Werder Bremen. Quite a tale.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/nov/21/ivan-klasnic-bolton-wanderers-kidney-transplant

  • Comment number 11.

    John Platt, Oldham Athletic goalkeeper lost a kidney as a result of a football injury and he carried on playing for many years afterwards.

  • Comment number 12.

    Quote from Klasnic's website 'Today I have three kidneys and no problems at all.'

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't usually like to post a comment that doesn't add anything to whatever debate may be going on, but as a long-time TUFC supporter - and long-time expat who doesn't get to keep as up-to-speed with the Gulls as would be ideal - I'd just like to thank you for this blog. A great read about an inspirational figure.

    Let's hope we can make our own little slice of history this weekend... and since I won't be able to get to the match regardless of who we draw in round five, I'm going to keep hoping for easy draws in the hope that maybe somewhere along the line I can stop worrying about explaining to the locals who the heck Torquay United are and why I don't support Manchester United...!

  • Comment number 14.

    Great piece Chris; the "stuff" from the lower divisions is almost always more interesting than the sycophantic efforts about the galacticos so Thanks! To you and Fletch, of course.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Colchester supporter I'd like to wish Torquay all the best today - Paul Buckle was one of my all-time favourite players as he always gave his all, week in, week out.

  • Comment number 16.

    I actually attended the Forest Green game where Scott was horrifically injured: at first it simply looked as if he'd taken a knock, and the home fans were all rather surprised when he had to be substituted, especially as he'd been playing well up until that point.

    After reading in the local paper that he'd had to be rushed to hospital, I think many of us were fearing the worst, so it's nice to see that he not only survived, but has gone on to play in the Football League and could be helping his side go through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Best of luck from all at Forest Green, Scott!

  • Comment number 17.

    Having read this, I can quite fairly say. Go Torquay!
    Scott Bevan sounds like the man who embodies all the spirit of the FA cup, and him & Torquay deserve their day against one of the big boys.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ah... how much more frustrating yesterday's result is after seeing Crawley get Man Utd just now! I might've gotten to see the Gulls live (albeit on the telly) for the first time in years! :(

 

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