Belfast Telegraph

NI star Oliver Norwood aims for Wembley FA Cup double

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Oliver Norwood is hoping his trip to Wembley tonight for Reading's FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal won't be a one off.

The midfielder is determined to return to the famous stadium on May 30 for the final!

It'll take a mighty shock for that to happen, but Norwood insists Championship outfit Reading have nothing to lose against the in-form Premier League side.

Arsenal are heavy favourites and enter the tie against Steve Clarke's side in confident mood having won their last 10 domestic matches, taking them to second in the Premier League table and into the last four of the Cup competition they won last year.

In contrast Reading haven't won a game since they defeated Bradford in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last month.

It would take an exceptional set of results for them to be relegated from the Championship, but being 18th and just eight points above the drop zone with four games remaining does not make good reading for a club which had promotion aspirations at the start of the season.

No matter. While Norwood would admit Reading's league form could be a whole lot better, he says the Cup is a completely different scenario and is hoping for another romantic underdog tale in a competition that has been full of them this season.

"After leaving Huddersfield in the summer and moving to Reading, I didn't really expect to be playing at Wembley this season, except maybe through the play-offs, but the Cup run has been good for us and everyone is looking forward to the big game against Arsenal hoping they get in the team," said the 24-year-old Northern Ireland ace, who has become a big favourite with the Green and White Army.

"Arsenal are a quality side, with outstanding players and it will be tough for us, but we have quality in our team too and have nothing to lose.

"They will obviously go into the game as big favourites. They are, after all, a top Premier League side. We, though, have really enjoyed this FA Cup run and don't want it to end now.

"Our aim will be to win the game and then be able to go back to Wembley in May for the final."

Should Norwood be selected it won't be the first time he has graced the Wembley turf.

He played there before for the England under 16 side against Spain in one of the first games after the old Wembley became the new Wembley following redevelopment work.

"There'll be a bigger crowd there this time," he said.

Now a fully fledged, proud and popular member of the Northern Ireland squad, through the grandparent rule, he would love to follow in the footsteps of his international team-mate Roy Carroll.

The Notts County goalkeeper, from Fermanagh, was the last Northern Ireland international to play in an FA Cup winning side, all the way back in 2004 when he came off the bench during Manchester United's 3-0 victory over Millwall at the Millennium Stadium.

Since then Tony Capaldi has played for Cardiff City and last year Alex Bruce turned out for Hull City, but they lost their finals to Portsmouth and Arsenal respectively.

If Reading win tonight, Norwood could meet Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers in the final should his Liverpool side defeat Aston Villa tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph


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