Nobody needs to tell Sheffield Wednesday’s new signing Callum McManaman about the romance of the FA Cup.
The 25-year-old was man of the match in the 2013 final when Wigan Athletic pulled off one of the biggest shocks in history by beating Manchester City at Wembley.
McManaman seemed to have a sparkling future and swiftly earned a lucrative move to West Bromwich Albion via a £4.75m deal in 2015.
But his time at The Hawthorns turned sour and he was frozen out by manager Tony Pulis.
McManaman came close to joining Wednesday on loan in the summer, only for the Baggies to delay the deal, before finally arriving at Hillsborough on loan last week.
He made his debut in the 0-0 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Hillsborough and is set to feature in tomorrow’s third-round FA Cup trip to Middlesbrough.
The north east seems a long way from the glamour of Wembley and McManaman admits the last 12 months have been tough.
“It was mad, it feels like it never happened it was that long ago,” said McManaman.
“I have great memories, from the third round all the way through.
“Winning the Cup final was just unbelievable. I don’t think anyone believed we could do it, probably including a few of the players.
“I think it’s the biggest shock in FA Cup history.
“Getting man of the match was massive, I had the game of my life. But it feels about 10 years ago, now.
“I had scored a few times before in the FA Cup, before the final. I have always done well in it, I don’t know why it is.
“I have always liked it as a fan, too, when I used to go watch Everton. Everyone enjoys the FA Cup, it just has a buzz about it.”
Wednesday will field several changes tomorrow, with one eye on crucial back-to-back Championship games against Huddersfield Town and Brighton on the horizon.
Not that McManaman wants to waste any more time on the sidelines.
“I am just looking forward to playing again,” he said. “I see this as getting my career back on track.
“Wednesday is a great club, the biggest club I have played for.
“To play in front of 30,000 as your home support is so enjoyable.
“I nearly left in the summer, but it fell through at the last minute. There were a few clubs interested, to be fair, and even in the January transfer window before that I nearly left.
“I was just made up to finally get out.
“It was very frustrating. I never got a proper run of games at West Brom, I never got the chance. That’s just football, it’s a game of opinions.
“I spoke to the gaffer (Carlos Carvalhal) in the summer a few times and I was very impressed with him.
“But the move never materialised, more due to West Brom because I don’t think they knew if they wanted to let me go.
“I was gutted about that, but the chance came before January and I was very keen on the move.
“I spoke to the gaffer again, he was keen, so it just worked out perfect. It was done before January 1, which is very unusual. I was expecting it to go to the wire again.
“There were a few clubs interested in the summer, but Wednesday I fancied all along. It’s the biggest club I have played for, so it was a no-brainer.
“I remember watching them in the play-off final because I knew there was a chance of going there in the summer.
“I saw the support they had at Wembley, there was a lot more than the Hull fans. I was gutted they didn’t go up.”
McManaman – who played just once for the Baggies this season in the League Cup – has clearly been impressed with Carvalhal’s coaching style, and is relishing playing in a more attacking role.
He said: “Carlos is sound. He speaks to me most days and has helped me a lot.
“He wants to see more of the ball at my feet and getting at players, higher up the pitch, rather than where I have been the last few years playing deeper. I think he will get the best out of me. I have seen the way Wednesday play, and I like the way they attack.
“He can get the best out of me, when I have the ball one-v-one up the pitch that’s when I do well.
“The last few years I have not had the chance to do that. That was a big thing, listening to his plans for me.”
McManaman is on loan at Hillsborough until the summer, and does not see a future at West Brom.
“The last year has been the worst year of my career,” he said.
“I have not played, not enjoyed it and been down. Now I have got a chance I am, hopefully, going to take it. I just want to get back playing and enjoy it again.
“Previously, I have always been involved either starting or on the bench, but this last year I have not been involved.
“There’s nothing worse, training when you know you won’t be involved at the weekend no matter what you do in training.
“I have just been doing it for myself, in the gym at home. It feels like a waste of time, but you have to keep going to keep fit and then get a chance to play.
“I am happy here and I won’t take it for granted again – you do when you are playing.
“I wouldn’t expect to go back to West Brom. They have a way of playing under Tony Pulis so I can’t see that changing.
“We will see what happens here. Hopefully I can do well and stay here.”