FA Cup: Goalkeeper's wife has twin girls and rise of the supermarket shelf-stacker

By Michael PearlmanBBC Wales Sport at Rodney Parade

As his Newport team-mates were celebrating a stunning FA Cup win over Championship side Middlesbrough on Tuesday, goalkeeper Joe Day was sprinting down the tunnel after hearing his wife had gone into labour.

It summed up a remarkable win for the League Two team, who will now face Premier League champions Manchester City in the fifth round on Saturday, 16 February.

Add to the mix the former shelf-stacker who scored the opening goal and a pitch that has already hosted more than 50 games this season - there was FA Cup magic in the air in South Wales.

Day's swift exit for birth of twins

Day missed the first tie at Riverside Stadium on 26 January because of the possibility of his wife Lizzie going into labour.

Fast-forward 10 days and with Mrs Day seemingly no closer to giving birth to twins, Mr Day opted to play against Middlesbrough and was recalled to the side.

Newport County tweet picture of goalkeeper Joe Day's twin daughters
Newport County Tweeted this picture of Joe Day's twin daughters

Manager Michael Flynn says his goalkeeper wanted to focus, so "turned his phone off," only to get the news immediately on full-time that his wife had indeed gone into labour.

"'Please can I leave gaffer?' - he asked me that straight after the game finished," Flynn said.

"He sprinted off the pitch and it's the quickest I've ever seen him move."

Day was greeted at the hospital by twin girls Sophia Grace and Emelia Lillie.

Goalscorer Padraig Amond told BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning programme: "They've had two healthy baby girls so congratulations to Joe and his partner Lizzie and the two little girls as well.

"It's brilliant."

'When I was stacking shelves I used to think 'what have I done?''

Winger Robbie Willmott returned to Newport in 2017, having been part of the side promoted to the Football League in 2013, when he was a team-mate of his current manager.

The 28-year-old was released by the Exiles in 2014 and after spells with Ebbsfleet, Bishop's Stortford and Chelmsford, he quit the game and took a job in his local supermarket.

Willmott, who house-shares with team-mates including Joss Labadie across the road from Rodney Parade, says he never expected to enjoy a night like beating Middlesbrough.

"I've had highs and lows, but everyone knows what the club means to me and my bond with supporters," Willmott said after scoring his first goal of the season.

"I never imagined this, I could not have dreamed it, I took a lot of things for granted, a lot of pros do, you just think you'll keep getting contracts… but unfortunately I was cut.

"When I was stacking shelves I used to think 'what have I done?' A lot of people said I should have played at a higher level, but I was thinking 'this is probably me now'. I was ready to play part-time and work.

"I would have looked back on my career and thought 'I've wasted my career'. But I managed to grind and work hard and got myself back in the league."

His manager Flynn added: "He should have played his career higher.

"He is unbelievable really. I've got the best Robbie Willmott now because he is fully focused, not immature anymore and he is a joy to work with. Even the house that the players all share, he takes responsibility and he has really grown since I first knew him."

Guardiola heads to one of British sport's busiest pitches

Newport and Middlesbrough players at Rodney Parade
More than 50 games have been played on the Rodney Parade pitch already this season

For Newport, this FA Cup run started with a visit to Met Police and will now take in Manchester City.

They share a ground with both rugby union Pro14 side Dragons and Welsh Premiership outfit Newport RFC, meaning the ground is already closing in on hosting 60 games this season.

So what will Pep Guardiola and artistic players like Sergio Aguero and David Silva make of playing at a ground nicknamed locally as Dave Parade (see Trigger for answers).

"We have had Mauricio Pochettino, Claude Puel, Thomas Christiansen, they are all fantastic managers but this is the creme de la creme. He is a master, somebody that I just idolise and probably the best in the business, along with Jurgen Klopp, because I am a Liverpool fan," Flynn said.

"Mikel (Arteta, City assistant manager) has just messaged me good luck and said: 'See you soon'. We did the Uefa pro licence together, and that goes to show you how down to earth they are. Knowing Pep, and how good he is, I'm sure they will cope with that pitch.

"That's something for them to worry about. I know we try and play football in the right way. We passed the ball a lot in tough conditions and they will do the same.

"We are going to have to be prepared - I might play nine at the back. It's overwhelming, it's massive.

"I can't really explain how I feel at this time.

"I've been very nervous about this, not because of the game because I knew what it meant for the whole football club, the whole city. These supporters deserve everything because these supporters have been through the mill. It's a club that I love."


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