Burnley v Barnsley: Man from Down Under aiming to catch a few FA Cup waves

surfing is usually the main reason why thousands of sports-loving Australians set their alarms for the crack of dawn.

For Barnsley midfielder Kenny Dougall, it was somewhat different in his formative years growing up in the Queensland capital of Brisbane and nothing to do with the great national pastime either.

It was catching the live football action from just over 10,000 miles away in the UK – as opposed to catching a few waves – that was the reason why Dougall rose so early.

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Alongside his Scottish-born father, an avid Hearts fan, Dougall fondly recalls that rite of passage, a time when the side he had a leaning for in Manchester United were highly successful.

Up for the Cup: Barnsley's Kenny Dougall, right.Up for the Cup: Barnsley's Kenny Dougall, right.
Up for the Cup: Barnsley's Kenny Dougall, right.

Sweet FA Cup moments formed part of the tapestry, of course, and there will be pride in the Dougall family today should their ‘boy’ take the field in his first FA Cup tie, which pits the Reds with Premier League outfit Burnley.

Just as there was last weekend for Dougall senior after his beloved Hearts triumphed in the Edinburgh derby against Hibernian at Easter Road.

No alarms will have to be set today either, with the 12.30pm kick-off time at Turf Moor ensuring that events can be followed late in the evening across the other side of the world in Brisbane.

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Dougall, back in the fold with Barnsley after almost two months out with an ankle ligament injury, told The Yorkshire Post: “It was nice getting up in the middle of the night or early in the morning with the time difference watching football.

“Most games were in the middle of the night and the Champions League games were early in the morning. You would set an alarm and get up and watch the football.

“Me and my dad watched together growing up, although he obviously had work to go to in the morning. So sometimes, he did not bother, it was just myself.

Australia is a relatively new country, so there is a lot of British influence in it. Football is always on telly, whereas the Spanish and German leagues aren’t, really. Everyone follows a British team.

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“My father is a ‘Jambo’ and from Edinburgh, so the Edinburgh derby last weekend would have pleased him a bit.

“I supported Manchester United when I was a kid a little bit. They were the best and most exciting (team) to watch. I always liked Paul Scholes, who was great, and I liked Michael Carrick a lot. Being a midfielder, you kind of look at that.

“In the early 2000s, Manchester United and Arsenal dominated the competition and it was often a case of watching them in the final.

“I remember watching the finals, definitely. Sometimes, with the early rounds, it was maybe not worth getting up for – and maybe sleep is maybe more important at that stage!

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“But the FA Cup is special; a knock-out competition, win or go home.

“Playing against Premier League opposition is a real chance to test ourselves, so we are really looking forward to it.

“Personally, it is my also first game ever in the FA Cup – if I get selected. It would be nice for me to play in what is the oldest cup competition in the world. It is known for the giant-killers and that is what we are trying to be.

“I fancy our chances against any team, as long as we are set up correctly and play to our abilities. Obviously, they are the favourites, being a Premier League team and, on paper, they have more quality than us. But we have to do what the gaffer says and see how it goes.”

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Dougall may find himself in chilly East Lancashire today, but if fates had been different, it could easily have been in the far warmer United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf state is staging the Asia Cup, with Australia’s Group B opener taking place against Jordan in Al Ain tomorrow.

Called up to the national squad in August, the Socceroos’ hopeful’s form put him firmly in the mix for a place in the finals squad, only to then suffer a cruelly-timed ankle injury after being on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from Shrewsbury Town opponent Anthony Grant in a game in October.

It also saw him miss out on the chance of making an emotional appearance for Australia in their friendly with South Korea in his home city of Brisbane in mid-November.

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Dougall, previously eligible to represent his father’s home country of Scotland and Thailand – where his mother was born – added: “On a personal note, it was disappointing to miss my chance at a major international tournament.

“But at the same time, I would have missed a month of football at Barnsley. It is one of those; I would have loved to go, but I am here now and have got a job to do here.

“They (Australia) think my future is bright, but at the same time, it is international football. It is kind of whoever is playing well at the time gets picked. There are no guarantees anywhere. It is time to keep performing and see what happens.”

Barnsley’s chance of pulling off a shock today may be fairly long, but ensuring the club maintain momentum with a strong show at Turf Moor – whatever the result – will be consequential.

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The Reds head across the Pennines on the back of a vibrant Christmas and New Year period which has seen them go unbeaten in a quintet of games against rival sides at the top end of League One.

While the focus is all about the FA Cup today against a Burnley side who they eliminated at the third-round stage of the competition exactly six years ago today in the 2012-13 campaign, a positive spin-off for the main business of league action would not be sniffed at.

More especially with a Yorkshire derby against in-form Bradford City on the horizon in seven days’ time at Oakwell.

Dougall, whose classy contributions have quickly made him a favourite at Oakwell following his summer move from Sparta Rotterdam, continued: “If we play well, we give ourselves a chance of progressing in the cup and taking it back into the league and then Bradford at home in the league is the main priority.

“We are still aiming for the top two, that is our goal and we will not give up on that. We have just got to keep picking the points up.”