Alan Blayney’s main claim to fame is a save that left former England captain Alan Shearer not just frustrated, but shocked as to how the ball hadn’t gone into the net.
With a stop similar to the one that Gordon Banks is hailed for, when he denied Pele in the 1970 World Cup, Blayney kept out Shearer’s header as he made his debut for Southampton against Newcastle United — and that was enough to win him the Premier League’s Save of the Season award.
Blayney wants to be able to add another accolade to what has become a growing collection by helping Linfield lift the Irish Cup tomorrow afternoon, to complete another double for the Blues — what would be their fourth in five seasons.
Alan Mannus was in the Windsor Park goal for those previous triumphs, so a first crack at lifting the Irish Cup has Blayney eagerly awaiting 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m really excited about playing in the Irish Cup final, because anywhere I have been in my career before I’ve usually been fighting against relegation rather than winning things,” said the 29-year-old.
“I know from talking to other players that these finals are big days and great occasions.
“There is a lot of build-up all week, but if you don’t win it then it ends up a bit flat — a damp squib.
“Most of the players in our squad have only played on winning teams in the Irish Cup final, so hopefully that will continue.”
Blayney had a big job on his hands in succeeding Mannus and he didn’t get off to the best of starts — being at fault for a goal against Coleraine on his debut.
In the latter weeks of the season, with the Blues chasing the title, he has been a rock and a big performance tomorrow will edge him closer to ensuring that Mannus isn’t missed.
“To win the league in my first season at Linfield was big, but to go and do the double would be massive. That’s what our focus is on now,” he said.
“It wouldn’t mean a disappointing season for us if we don’t win the Cup, but it would make things all the sweeter if we do.
“I’d say around Christmas time it looked like things were unraveling for us a bit and a lot of people were probably expecting us to fall away, but the goals started to fly in, we won games and another double is there for Linfield.”
The knock-on effect of Blayney’s famous save from Shearer meant a lot to the north Belfast man too. A year later Liverpool won the Champions League after their famous comeback against AC Milan, winning the trophy on penalties.
Had Newcastle beat Southampton, however, they would have pipped Liverpool to reach Europe’s top competition, but the |3-3 draw at St Mary’s meant UEFA Cup football instead and allowed Liverpool to create a moment of history.
“I got thank-you cards from Liverpool fans because I made that save,” he said.
“I am a Liverpool fan too and helping them made the save all the sweeter for me.”