Gareth Deane vows to take hold of his golden opportunity
As he took his seat at Windsor Park last Saturday, Gareth Deane couldn't have imagined what would unfold in front of his eyes and the immediate impact it would have on him.
When Linfield goalkeeper Ross Glendinning was sent off an hour into the game, everyone else in the South Stand was probably concerned with what influence that would have on the outcome of the Blues' battle with Glenavon.
Deane's thoughts, however, were different. His mind fast forwarded seven days as he knew that he wouldn't be sitting in the stand today, but instead was about to be thrust into one of Linfield's biggest games of the season - and the biggest of his career. Today's Irish Cup quarter-final away to Cliftonville.
The Blues' number two goalkeeper has had to be patient for a while now. In three seasons he has made only four first-team appearances - two in end-of-season league games before playing in a League Cup win against Glebe Rangers and a County Antrim Shield victory over Newington earlier in this campaign.
Game number five will be very different to anything that the Lisburn lad has experienced before.
"I didn't think that Ross deserved a red card, but I also knew straight away that I would be playing in the Irish Cup quarter-finals against Cliftonville," said Deane, whose dad Ivan was one of Linfield manager Healy's youth coaches when he was a young lad at Lisburn Youth.
"In a way I was delighted because it means I will get a chance now in a big game, but I was obviously disappointed for Ross as well.
"It's the biggest game I'll have played in for Linfield.
"David Healy has been encouraging me all week and the goalkeeping coach, Johnny Williamson, spoke to me straight after the match last Saturday to tell me that I had to step up now and take the chance that I've been waiting for all season."
At just 21-years-old, Deane has an old head on young shoulders.
A product of Linfield's youth set-up, he left the club in his mid-teens to join Hillsborough Boys. The reason? Because he needed to be tested more after often standing at one end of the pitch watching his young Blues team-mates bang in five and six goals a game and barely touching the ball himself.
What might have been viewed as one step back led to two steps forward. A move to Queens Park Rangers followed, as did international recognition at Under-17 and Under-19 level.
Former Northern Ireland captain Jim Magilton was manager at Loftus Road when Deane headed to London as a 16-year-old. The turbulent nature of the club at that time resulted in managerial changes and Deane being released after two years.
Rather than being down in the dumps at his dream falling flat, he made one telephone call and began to rebuild his career.
"It was disheartening when I was let go by QPR," he said.
"Signing for a club like that is all that any young player wants to do, but it just didn't work out for me.
"I had interest from clubs in Scotland, but there was only one club that I wanted to sign for after that. I rang David Jeffrey straight away and I was back at Linfield.
"I'd been a Linfield fan growing up and that's where I wanted to be."
Patience has been the watchword for Deane since he rejoined the Blues back in June 2012.
Alan Blayney, Jonny Tuffey and Glendinning have all been in his way over the last four years.
Today, however, he has a straight run and the former Laurelhill Community College pupil, who now works part-time in Tesco when he isn't playing for Linfield, is hungry to grab his chance with both gloves.
"The Irish Cup is huge for Linfield, so this game is really important to us," he said.
"I want to make sure that I take this chance and then stay in the team for the rest of the season.
"We are still pushing in the league and we have to just keep going and see what happens at the end of the season.
"I am very content at Linfield. I want to stay here and make myself the number one.
"It's hard being the number two having to play a waiting game.
"Ross and I have been together since we were at Under-16 level and he has been brilliant for Linfield this season and I couldn't have expected to get in ahead of him, but him getting sent off has done me a favour and now it's up to me to take this chance."