Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Newport star Amond hopes glasses are raised after Otamendi reunion

SoccerNews in FA Cup 15 Feb 2019

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Newport County FA Cup hero Padraig Amond will enjoy an unlikely reunion when Premier League champions Manchester City visit Rodney Parade in a David-versus-Goliath last-16 clash on Saturday.

Amond’s sweetly struck goal against Middlesbrough to help set up the money-spinning tie followed a coolly dispatched penalty as County saw off Leicester City in round three.

The 30-year-old Irish forward has 18 goals in all competitions this season – making him Newport’s main threat as they chase an upset he feels would rank as “the biggest shock in the history of the FA Cup”.

Amond’s route to south Wales comes after stints in England’s lower divisions with the likes of Accrington Stanley and Hartlepool United but is far from typical.

Following his breakthrough as a youngster with Sligo Rovers in the League of Ireland, he was poached by Pacos de Ferreira and spent 2010-11 in the Portuguese Primeira Liga.

At the same time, City’s Argentinian centre-back Nicolas Otamendi was making his first steps in European football with Porto and was an unused substitute when Amond – on his final Pacos appearance – laid on a hat-trick sealing equaliser for Pizzi in a 3-3 draw at Estadio Do Dragao.

Earlier in the season, Otamendi scored in a 3-0 Porto win as Amond was introduced from the bench in vain.

“I’m going to have to try and repay the favour this time around,” Amond told Omnisport, although he is under no illusions that he made any impression upon his likely Saturday opponent.

“Obviously he’s been a really good defender, he’s won a lot of trophies. I highly doubt Otamendi will remember playing against me, but I remember playing against him.”

Those memories and experiences underpin an enduring ambition within Amond that will be called upon when Pep Guardiola’s men return to action for the first time since demolishing Chelsea 6-0 last weekend.

“At the time you take it for granted, but now, when you look back… when I go into the bigger games now, it doesn’t actually affect me,” he explained.

“Sometimes you’re questioning whether you should be on the same field as them but now you realise, ‘why shouldn’t I be?’.

“I’ve worked really hard in my career, grafted really hard every day. I think I’ve still been a bit unlucky with regards to playing at a higher level. I’ve scored goals wherever I’ve been and, for one reason or another, it’s not happened.

“I’m not giving up hope of playing at whatever the highest level possible is. I think I’m good enough to do it.”

However, Amond knows there is a clear line between belief and bombastic predictions, as Sergio Aguero and others approach the match in rampant mood.

“I’m not going to be silly and say we’re going to win and then have egg on my face if it turns out to be a disaster of a game,” he said.

“You look at Aguero and he’s one of the best players to play in the Premier League. His goals record is unbelievable, his movement is unbelievable.

“As a striker, you’re kind of hoping that it can all be about one of us – that one of us gets the opportunity that might be the biggest goal in the history of the FA Cup and the one that causes a massive upset.”

Amond’s recent turns as an FA Cup star – he was also on target when Newport took Tottenham to a replay last season – have seen glasses raised in his native Carlow.

Edward Cahill, the manager of Tully’s Bar and an old school friend of Amond’s, has offered a free drink to all punters each time he has scored in a televised FA Cup game.

“His family have been fantastic supporters of sports in Carlow,” Amond said, explaining Sean O’Brien’s exploits for the Ireland rugby team have received similar backing.

“They did it last year for the Spurs game. There were a few people in the bar and it said ‘when’ I score, not ‘if’ I scored – they fully believed I was going to score – there would be a free drink for everybody.”

A busload of Tully’s regulars will make a near 800 kilometre trip to Rodney Parade this weekend, but the offer still stands for those staying behind.

“It’ll be the same wording – when, not if,” Amond added. “They have a lot of confidence in me, so hopefully I can back up their confidence.”

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