CUP HANGOVERS aren’t necessarily a bad thing – just ask Rotherham United loan striker Matt Tubbs.
Back on the morning of Sunday, January 30, 2011, the decidedly bleary-eyed forward can well remember feeling a tad rough – the day after firing the goal which booked old club Crawley’s passage into the last 16 of the world’s most famous cup competition after a 1-0 victory at Torquay United.
The following season, the Sussex outfit emulated that feat after single-goal wins over Championship outfits Bristol City and Hull City, with Tubbs netting the only goal in both cup ties – although he remembers the victory over the latter for an entirely different reason.
But in terms of cup memories, it was the 2010-11 campaign which takes pride of place for Tubbs, who is hoping do his bit to fire the Millers into the third round of the cup for the second successive campaign this afternoon when they host Keith Hill’s Rochdale – while also providing them with a bit more luck in tomorrow’s draw along the way.
After a night of celebration after his goal against the Gulls put Crawley – then top of the Conference – into the fifth round for the first time in their history in January 2011, Tubbs went from feeling ropey to being top of the world when the minnows were handed a dream trip to Old Trafford to face mighty Manchester United.
Roared on by 9,000 supporters in a crowd of over 74,000 Crawley claimed a huge moral victory despite unluckily losing 1-0 to United, as well as picking up a fair chunk of welcome income.
How Rotherham would relish some similar memories early in the New Year.
Tubbs, on loan at the New York Stadium until January 28 and available on the third and fourth-round cup weekends – should the Millers get there – said: “Both ourselves and Rochdale will both really want to be in the hat for the third round; it’s a great incentive.
“The cup has been great for me.
“I remember playing Torquay in the fourth round (in 2010-11) and we were 1-0 up and then had two penalties and they were both missed and then they hit the bar in the last minute! But we held on for the win and obviously got the glory of playing Manchester United in the next round.
“I was actually recovering from a hangover and I just walked in as the draw was being made. As the balls were coming out, there were four balls left – us and three other Premier League clubs, so we knew we were going to get one of those. I knew one of the others was Aston Villa.
“It then said Manchester United and then Crawley – it was unbelievable and something that will stay with me forever.
“As a player, you want to play as high as you can and in the best stadiums and it doesn’t get any better than Old Trafford. For a team who were in the Conference to play arguably the best team in the world was fantastic and we did the club proud when we got there as most people thought it would be a 5-0 or 6-0 turnover. To lose 1-0 wasn’t too bad.
“The game actually went pretty quickly after all the build-up. We went to the stadium before the game, so that we didn’t just get there on the match-day and be star-struck by it all. We made a good weekend of it.
“I got Michael Owen’s shirt. I had the choice of Owen or (Dimitar) Berbatov. But growing up, Owen was my idol for what he did with England and he obviously plays in the same position.
“The following year, I scored at Hull when we got to the fifth round again, although that was the weekend I ended up signing for Bournemouth, so I didn’t play in the fifth round against Stoke. It was a strange one coming home on the coach from Hull knowing I was going to be signing for Bournemouth when it was a bit of a party-time for the players, who knew the draw was the following day and that the club could get a potentially massive club.
“I was thinking: ‘What should I do?’ But when my home town comes calling, you have to take it.”
Millers boss Steve Evans also sampled those cup highs while at Crawley and after tasting some of the cup limelight at the start of the season when Rotherham were handed a glamour Capital One Cup trip to Aston Villa, he is eager for more in January.
It’s a great time to be a Millers fan, with the club in the Northern Area semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and three games away from Wembley, while also riding high in League One with the likes of Wolves, Bradford and Coventry to play in the coming weeks.
A blue-riband FA Cup tie on the first weekend of 2014, preferably at the New York Stadium, would apply the gloss according to Evans, whose side were handed a decidedly underwhelming third-round tie – and exit – at Aldershot last season.
Savouring an intense schedule on all fronts this month, Evans said: “Are these the games we all want to take part in? Absolutely.
“From the players’ point of view, you want to play in big games and be part of something special.
“For the chairman’s sake, we’d love to host a Premier League club here in an FA Cup game at the New York Stadium. But to get a big club, I believe you have to earn that right. If we beat Bradford and Rochdale, we will probably deserve a big cherry.
“As a boy, growing up in Glasgow, the FA Cup had a great tradition in our house. It’s a fantastic, magical cup competition and when you have had success in it, it’s more magical. It puts life and breath into a football club.
“We’ve got players who can grace the Championship now and would love another cup run. People say: ‘Does it distract you as you go forward in your league campaign?’ It does the opposite and reinforces the spirit in the squad and puts competition for the big games at an all-time high.”
Doing his bit to help the Millers achieve that would be just the ticket for Tubbs, hoping his profitable association with the FA Cup can relight his goal-scoring fires in 2013-14 after a barren run so far this term.
Despite a meagre return, Tubbs insists he is enjoying his time in South Yorkshire.
The 29-year-old added: “I am enjoying it.
“I have worked with the gaffer before and the lads have made me feel at home. It’s a good club and with the infrastructure, it is going in the right direction.
“It is good that the gaffer is staying here, despite the interest from Sheffield Wednesday, as there’s work still to be done here.
“Personally, my loan is up at the end of January and I am taking each day as it comes. We’ll have to see what happens.”