Cup final is shop window for the Blues

Blues boss Simon Haworth watches on from the touchline
Blues boss Simon Haworth watches on from the touchline
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Simon Haworth knows that the Lancashire FA Challenge Cup final at the Macron Stadium provides the opportunity for his players to put themselves in the shop window.

The Welshman was a teenager, studying at Llanrumney High School, when he first made the grade, having stood out at that level and for his county, Glamorgan.

Haworth, a Bluebirds fan, had offers to move away from South Wales, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Crystal Palace showing an interest, but it was a conglomeration of home comforts, including his mum’s cooking, that took him to Ninian Park.

“I played parks football and then most of the opportunities for me to join pro clubs was playing for Cardiff Schools and playing for the county which tended to be watched by scouts,” he said.

“I started to get attention at 14/15 which suited me because I could still play with my friends at the local youth centre.

“My last year at school was when I started to take it more seriously; I was going to Cardiff City about three/four times a week.

“It was more at county level, playing for Glamorgan, where you got spotted. That led to playing for Wales under 16s and International School Boys.”

Haworth added: “I came through the professional system at Cardiff City. I had several offers to go to different places - Liverpool, Chelsea and Palace.

“A lot of lads from South Wales did move outside but I chose to stay at home, sleep in my own bed and have my mum’s cooking every night.

“My dad was of the thinking that If I was good enough I’d work my way through. At that age, at 16, it was a culture shock to go straight from school to that.

“It was back in the day where you’d spend a day of the week working on the ground. It wasn’t the way they’re pampered now. It was a bit of an education in becoming a man.”

Haworth’s squad will get the chance to sell themselves at the home of Championship side Bolton Wanderers where they take on National League North play-off hopefuls Chorley, a repeat of the 2014/15 final which the Magpies won 3-0.

With forward Alex Newby already being snapped up from Shawbridge by Matt Jansen this season, Haworth said: “The lads know that there is an opportunity to impress Matt Jansen and they know there’ll be a whole host of clubs watching that night.

“It is a shop window, that shouldn’t really be the motivation, but if it is it is and that’s football.

“A lot of them will be looking at where they’re going to be next year, where they’ll be playing, whether it’s here or somewhere else.

“A lot of them want to play at a higher level. There is no better shop window. We’re also playing a club that is directly of interest to some of them. Chorley are a strong Conference North team who have already taken our best player.

“They’ve watched us a few times so I’m sure there’ll be lads in our dressing room who think they can go and do what Alex has done.

“They would like to play higher than Clitheroe. It’s the same all the way along.

“If Clitheroe becomes Chorley, it’s a ladder and there’s no end to it for them. We’re always trying to improve and better ourselves.”

The former Wigan Athletic striker enjoyed a few big nights during his career, none more so than the time he featured for Wales against a Brazilian outfit armed with Taffarel, Cafu, Aldair and Rivaldo in 1997.

The former Shrewsbury Town coach also played in numerous finals; winning the Football League Trophy with Wigan Athletic against Millwall at Wembley before returning to the home of English football with the Latics for a Division Two play-off final against Gillingham.

“They don’t come round often at all levels and I’ve tried to re-iterate that to the lads,” Haworth said. “You’ve got to enjoy them.

“I remember as a player, early on we won the Auto-Windscreens and at 19/20 I thought that this would happen every year.

“It doesn’t happen like that so I told them not to let it pass them by and do yourselves justice. If we turn up and perform then we can’t ask for any more and hopefully that wins us something.

“You have to grasp it and enjoy it and realise that it is only 90 minutes. The opposition are two leagues higher than us, they’re a good side but it’s a one-off game.

“I’m looking forward to it. Even though our league form has dropped off a bit, a cup final is a cup final. We have a real opportunity to win a trophy and that is what’s important.

“It’s what we’ve been drumming in to the lads during this ‘iffy’ period in the league, it’s a one off game, it’s a great occasion and hopefully we can do ourselves justice.”

He added: “It would mean everything to win it because we’ve worked hard to get there.

“Everyone is looking forward to the event but once you get there you’ve got a chance. You’re 90 minutes away from winning some silverware which would be the club’s first in a while.

“It would be my first trophy as a manager and it would be the highlight of many of the players’ careers.

“What a venue as well. Some of the lads won’t have played at a stadium like that and some of them won’t again, especially the boys that haven’t had any sort of professional background.

“We’ve got a group of lads there that are going to put in the performance of their lives.They need to acknowledge the opportunity and have a right good go at it.

“This will be huge. It’s a great venue, it’ll be a great night and great for everyone involved with the club. Hopefully we can come back with the silverware.”