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MEMORIES FLOOD BACK AS ATKINSON EMBARKS ON FA CUP TRAIL AGAIN.

THE memories have faded, the medal - the right one - is banished to a drawer in the house, but for Brian Atkinson the FA Cup remains special.

For the first time, it is special for Newton Aycliffe too.

For 19 years after Atkinson played for Sunderland in the final of football's greatest competition - losing 2-0 to Liverpool - the Northern League club he now helps coach are today set to make their FA Cup debut.

Three promotions in four years have elevated Aycliffe from the Durham Alliance to Division One of the Northern League.

At Moore Lane Park this afternoon (3pm) they entertain Billingham Synthonia in the extra preliminary round. That leaves them 13 steps from Wembley but, however unlikely they are to advance that far, one who has graced the home of football knows exactly what it means to players no matter the level.

Just don't ask him to reminisce too long about 1992!

Atkinson said: "I cannot remember much! The game itself passed us by.

"I think it was pretty even in the first half, from what I have been told anyway!

"Once Liverpool scored that was it really. I was supposed to be marking Jan Molby and I don't think I got close enough to even touch him.

"After the game the losers go up first for their medals.

"We got ours and the Liverpool players came chasing after us. They had got the medals mixed up!

"The abiding memory was of the day after the final. We got on to an opentop bus at Durham and it was fantastic, the amount of people who turned out.

It must have taken us four or five hours to get from Carville to the Seaburn Centre in Sunderland. Just typical Sunderland supporters."

Typical, also, of the magic the FA Cup inspires.

Atkinson added: "It is a competition everybody looks forward to, a lot of interest been generated in the town.

"It is our first year in it so it is a new experience for us.

"It is a way of generating funds, and if you do progress you play teams from outside of the area. They have regionalised it, but the standard of football in the Northern League is quite high so you will probably end up playing tougher games against local teams earlier on.

"The day out is something a lot of supporters and players look forward to because if you do get drawn away somewhere it is a nice change.

"It could be an over-nighter, so something you don't normally do.

"That is hopefully something which can happen if we do progress, either in this or the FA Vase."

First, though, Billy Synth. Atkinson said: "It will be a tough game.

"We are going into the unknown, we have a lot of young lads who have never played this level before.

"It is a learning curve and we will get ups like last Saturday but we will get downs as well.

"The important thing is that we enjoy it along the way."

STEVE BROWN

CAPTION(S):

UP FOR THE CUP Newton Aycliffe's Brian Atkinson with the FA Cup ahead of their debut in the competition
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 20, 2011
Words:526
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