Belfast boy Winchester wants more after Liverpool shock
Published 30/01/2013 | 07:00
Teenager Carl Winchester had no fears. The boy from Belfast was sitting on the Oldham Athletic bench itching to see some action against Liverpool's world famous, multi-millionaire stars.
A football pauper, by comparison, earning less than £300 a week, he was desperate to get on that Boundary Park pitch to show what he could do.
And when the opportunity came, earlier than expected, the former Linfield midfielder did not disappoint playing a key role in creating one of the biggest shocks of recent FA Cup history.
Result: Oldham 3 Liverpool 2 in the fourth round watched by millions of television viewers all around the world.
“I'm still buzzing mate, still buzzing,” Carl told me 24 hours on with an air of excitement and joy that filled the hearts of all the Oldham heroes, who deservedly knocked Liverpool out of the competition.
The League One side were a goal up when Winchester came on after just 10 minutes because of a team-mate's injury. Early in the second half they would go 3-1 ahead after an intelligent run and cross from the impressive substitute.
It was only when Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was introduced with 35 minutes left did the Premier League side ever threaten to leave one of the coldest stadiums on the planet with anything other than an embarrassing defeat.
Even the excellent Gerrard, though, could not rescue the Anfield outfit this time, crashing a 30 yard strike against the woodwork in the dying minutes with his side trailing 3-2.
And so Winchester and his pals, who had been having a wretched run of form in the league, emerged victorious and were rewarded with another home tie in the fifth round against Everton.
No wonder Carl was still “buzzing” yesterday. For 80 minutes plus injury time, he was superb in the famous triumph over Liverpool.
“It was an amazing experience to play in the game and fantastic to get the win,” said Winchester, who joined Oldham from the Blues in 2010.
“When I was told I was going on I was buzzing. The thought of playing against all those big stars like Luis Suarez didn't bother me. I just wanted to get on and prove myself because I had been in and out of the team in recent weeks.
“Like all the lads, I felt I did well and was delighted to set up our third goal with a good run down the left wing and a decent cross. My hope now is that I can establish myself and stay in the first team.”
Mixing it with Gerrard in the middle of the park should help on that score.
“He's some player. Once Gerrard came on the pitch you could see him lift their other players. He almost pulled them back into it. When he hit the shot that smashed against the bar I was worried it was flying in,” added the fast talking Winchester.
“It's funny one minute it's like you are watching Gerrard on television and the next I was playing against him. At one stage I thought I was dreaming and someone was going to wake me up! It was incredible.”
Carl's dad Harry and younger brother Ciaran were at the game, but a dash for their Sunday night 8.30pm flight back home meant they didn't see him at full-time.
“They phoned me that night to say how pleased and proud they were of me which meant a lot,” added Carl, whose twin brother Jude plays with Kilmarnock in the SPL under Kenny Shiels.
It wasn't just the Winchester family who felt a great sense of pride on Sunday. The Linfield family did too.
As a kid Carl started playing with Willowbank on the Falls Road before joining Linfield as an 11-year-old, progressing through the various age groups.
Linfield Academy's Head coach David Chisholm said: “Carl was always slightly above average size for his age with great technical ability, deceptive pace and a fantastic work ethic.
“He's grown into an intelligent footballer with tremendous character. He also has great family support behind him which always helps.
“I was delighted to see him come on for Oldham against Liverpool and do so well. It gave me and everyone at Linfield a sense of huge pride.
“He wasn't fazed by the challenge and set up the third goal which was brilliant for him. Playing in the same area as Steven Gerrard in the second half will certainly have filled his glass up with experience for the future.”
Chisholm feels that Winchester has what it takes to add to the one senior Northern Ireland cap he already has from an appearance against Wales in 2011.
On the evidence of Sunday, he might just be right.
Friendly with Shankill Road boy Kirk Millar, who also moved from Linfield to Oldham, Carl said: “Linfield helped me to develop a lot. I have to say a big thank you to everyone at the club and David Chisholm because I really improved as a player while I was there.
“I always hoped I would get a chance across the water and when Oldham came in for me I was delighted. I've played in quite a few first team games which has been good. My contract is up at the end of the season so I'm keen to show everyone what I can do between now and then.”
Everton, you have been warned.