FORMER Heyside Juniors’ footballer Richie Bennett provided another fairytale story in the Emirates FA Cup by helping to knock out Oldham Athletic, the team he once played for and which he still supports.
The 26-year-old striker, who scored twice in Carlisle United’s 3-2
giantkilling act, admitted his family were divided at Brunton Park for the recent cup clash.
Richie, who still lives in Derker, said: “My uncle, John Bennett was at the game and he is a massive Latics’ fan. He told me he would be happy for me to score a hat-trick as long as we lost 4-3.
“He goes to nearly every game and, when Latics were in the Premier League, my dad Simon went regularly with him to Boundary Park.
“I have a lot of friends who are also Latics’ fans. They were happy for me, but gutted about the result. It was a day of mixed emotions.”
Richie, who had done his homework by going to watch Latics play Bury, admitted it was special to play in front of his whole family while it was the first game his girlfriend Naomi had ever watched.
It was also a dream because Richie was still playing non-league football until four months ago for Barrow.
And he admitted his move to Carlisle had not been easy as it took 15 appearances for him to break his scoring duck.
But that ended with a goal in a 2-2 draw at Chesterfield followed by a brace against Latics in the next match.
Richie admitted: “It has been tough as I missed most of pre-season with Carlisle so been playing catch up in terms of fitness and gelling with the team.
“I was a bit behind the others, but the lads have helped me massively as I had been struggling as goals wouldn’t come.
“I have had chances that I would have put in had circumstances been different, and it has been tough mentally. Luckily I have had the support of the manager (Keith Curle), staff and players.
“They say the first goal is the hardest and the toughest challenge and I was more relaxed after finally getting it.”
Richie, whose Carlisle side has been drawn away to Gillingham in the second round, admitted the FA Cup has been kind to him.
In his non-league playing days, Richie helped Northwich Victoria reach the second round when lost 3-2 at Northampton Town where they had been 2-0 ahead after 86 minutes and Barrow reached the third round.
Richie said: “The FA Cup has been good to me in past years, whichever club I have been at. I have been lucky to have some great memories, and hopefully there are plenty more to come.
“The great beauty of the FA Cup is that players from non-league to the top of the Premier League experience it.
“There are great stories every year, last season it was Lincoln beating a strong Burnley team that proved on the day any team can provide a shock result.
“Usually the fitness and full-time training of the professionals counts in the last 10/15 minutes of game, but the margins are fine.”
Richie began his playing days for Heyside Juniors before having a spell at Manchester City and four years with Latics who released him aged 15.
Ironically at Latics’ centre of excellence he was friends with Danny Philliskirk whose Blackpool side was giantkilled by non-league Boreham Wood on Saturday. They lost 2-1 despite Philliskirk firing the Seasiders ahead.
“I caught up with Tony Philliskirk (Latics’ head of youth) on Saturday but it wasn’t the best day for him with Oldham and Blackpool both losing,” he said.
After being released by Latics, Richie had a spell at Curzon Ashton and, after recovering from a serious injury, went to play football for fun with his mates at Springhead where his dad coaches the U10s and where his younger brother Zach, 9, plays for the juniors.
He was snapped up by Mossley where, after scoring eight goals in 23 games, he was lured away by Northwich Victoria and then on to Barrow where he was full time.
Richie says he appreciates being a professional footballer as he combined non-league football with working in customer sales for Marks and Spencer, in a call centre and also had a spell as a care assistant working with dementia sufferers.