BBC BLOGS - Chris Bevan

Archives for January 2011

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.

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Liverpool united, but for how long?

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Chris Bevan | 23:04 UK time, Sunday, 9 January 2011

At Old Trafford.

The result was easily the worst part of Kenny Dalglish's first day back in the dugout and there can be few FA Cup exits - especially at at the hands of their fiercest rivals - that could have left any Liverpool manager, not to mention their fans, feeling more hopeful that there are better times ahead.

You could argue that, despite his side's third-round defeat by Manchester United on Sunday, Dalglish has already managed to do most of the things expected of him when Liverpool's owner John W Henry put Roy Hodgson out of his misery and asked the 59-year-old Scot to take charge until the end of the season.

Dalglish's most obvious impact was on the 9,000 travelling Reds fans, who showed him more love during the 90 or so minutes at Old Trafford than Hodgson received in the entire six months he spent in charge of the Merseysiders. Not that such a reception was a surprise for a man who helped fill the Anfield trophy room with silverware as a player and manager between 1977 and 1991.

The affection was mutual too, putting right one of the mistakes of his predecessor. After receiving raptuous applause when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off, Dalglish grinned as he saluted the Reds supporters and he was always quick to raise a hand in acknowledgement on every occasion - and there were quite a few - that his name was rhythmically chanted over the course of the afternoon.

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Birchall battling back to the big time

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Chris Bevan | 11:05 UK time, Thursday, 6 January 2011

The 'magic' of the FA Cup is difficult to define and, supposedly, on the wane, but try telling that to Dover Athletic striker Adam Birchall. His 11 goals in the famous old competition so far this season have not only helped the Blue Square South side win five ties to set up a third-round clash with Huddersfield on Saturday - they might help to fire him back into the Football League too.

You've probably heard a few stories like Birchall's before. A talented young player fails to make the grade at a Premier League club then drifts around the lower leagues for a few seasons showing sporadic glimpses of his potential as his reputation slowly fades, before his professional career peters out - usually long before a footballer's usual retirement age.

The early part of the former Wales Under-21 striker's career certainly followed that script. He was a prolific and highly-rated goalscorer as he rose through the junior ranks during 10 years at Arsenal to make Arsene Wenger's first-team squad but, after leaving the Gunners in 2005 without making a senior appearance, performed far more fitfully during two seasons apiece at Mansfield Town and Barnet. He left the Bees, his last full-time club, in 2009 admitting he was "fed up with football".

What is different, not to mention inspiring, about Birchall is what happened next. He thought about walking away from the game altogether that summer but, on the advice of the then Dover boss, his former Bees team-mate Andy Hessenthaler, decided to sign for him and turn semi-pro instead.

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