McKeever recalls Weston’s historic run to second round of the FA Cup
PUBLISHED: 10:30 27 June 2020
The FA Cup is set to return this weekend after four months without action due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The oldest national football competition in the world has bought so many surprises, upsets and historical moments.
None more so than the 2003/04 season, not only did a team from level two compete in a final for the first time in 12 years, but Millwall’s Curtis Weston became the youngest cup finalist at 17 years old and 119 days, when the then teenager came off the bench against eventual champions Manchester United.
The same year also saw Weston reach the second round, which to this day remains their most successful cup run in their history.
Former Premiership midfielder McKeever arrived at The Seagulls, from Bristol Rovers, during the summer of 2003 and started every game as he helped Frank Gregan’s side defeat Dorchester Town, Chesham United - after a replay - and Welling United in the qualifying rounds.
And it was from his cross which saw Billy Clark score the winner to secure a 1–0 away win at Farnborough Town to set up a tie with Northampton Town at the Sixfields Stadium.
“Looking back on the squad we had back then, we had a really good squad and we picked up some great results that season in the league as well as that cup run,” recalled McKeever.
“We had a strong team and it was really special to be part of.
“It was a really close knit group, there was a lot of experience.
“In the lead up to Northampton game I remember one of the national papers ran a story about the value of both squads based on transfers and the Northampton team was worth £400,000 and Weston was worth £4 million.
“We did have a really strong team at the time, we had Stuart Jones in goal, who I played with at Sheffield Wednesday, Lee Jarman, ex Cardiff boy, Billy Clark, Justin Skinner, Stuart Slater, Marc McGregor, Jon French.
“We had so many players with football league experience there was a real depth of experience in the squad.”
However, McKeever was in a race against time to be included after tearing his hamstring in the last few seconds of their win at Boro.
“After the Farnborough game I didn’t play any games for Weston,” he added.
“I was just concentrating on getting myself fit for Northampton.
“I passed a fitness test in the morning, so it was all good and I can remember the first half an hour, after a bit of a frantic start we grew into the game.
“We were coming more threatening and if anything we looked at that point like we could go and get a result if not the win.
“Then unfortunate the penalty and sending off incident happened.
“I was on the near post I stepped towards the ball, as you would to clear it, unfortunately the same hamstring has popped at the same time and anybody that has ever ruptured their hamstring will know that it feels like you’ve been shot in the back of the leg.
“I knew at that point I wasn’t going to reach the ball but even though I wasn’t going to get there with my foot, I stuck my right arm at it to tip it round the post.”
Despite feeling he had “got away with it” as the referee had not seen it and pointed towards a second corner, his linesman put his flag across his chest straight away, a penalty was awarded and McKeever was shown his marching orders, leaving Weston with ten men for just over an hour of play.
The Cobblers used this to their advantage and won the match 4-1 with Clark getting the goal for the visitors.
But looking back on the run McKeever says he it was an honour to be part of their run to the second round, which is something he will always treasure.
He said: “It is special, it’s nice to be part of that, we reached the second round the furthest the club has ever gone, especially being so involved in the coaching side.
“It’s something I can look back on and say to the players coming through ‘go and be the next bunch and take them to the third round.’
“It’s special from that point of view, you always look back with a little bit of hindsight, what if?
“Because Northampton went onto beat Rotherham in the next round and went onto draw Manchester United, which is every non league club’s dream.
“I definitely look back on it with fond memories and I am proud, although I got sent off on the day, I was part of that special team.”
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