Blair Adams fully expects to be on the receiving end of a few jeers today by the very fans he was singing along with at Wembley just five months ago.
And the scary part is that most of them will be his friends and family!
Sunderland Academy graduate Adams jokes he is a South Shields glory fan. Having grown up in the town and now back living there after spells at the likes of Coventry and Notts County, he has watched the rise of the Mariners first from afar, but now at close hand.
It’s a story that has captured the imagination of the South Tyneside public, but having been one of the 15,000-strong contingent cheering them on to cup success back in May, when Shields lifted the FA Vase at Wembley, Adams is now determined that their latest knockout exploits will come to an end today when his Hartlepool United side visit Mariners Park for their FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie.
“I’m really looking forward to the game,” the Pools left-back admitted. “I’ve followed South Shields for the last couple of years as a bit of a glory supporter.
“I went to Wembley last season with my dad and my brother and cheered them on. It’s brilliant how well they have been doing.
“I saw the stat the other day that they’ve won 51 out of their last 53 games so we’re under no illusions about how difficult this game is going to be.
“Shields have already picked off two established teams in the FA Cup, in Darlington and York, so we don’t want to be a third.”
Just a couple of years ago, there were six leagues between Shields and Pools. Now, that has been cut to just three after the Mariners gained successive promotions to jump from Northern League Division Two to the Evo-Stik League, while Pools dropped into the Conference this season.
The full-time outfit are still favourites for this clash, but regardless of the result Adams admits that the buzz around South Shields is something he’s not seen before.
“The game sold out within a couple of hours so it shows the support they have got now,” he added.
“Walking around the town you see the South Shields shirts and hoodies being worn by people. Everyone has jumped on it.
“With the big clubs not doing so well, a lot of people have turned to South Shields for their football. Non-league football is going through a boom time in the region.
“It’s brilliant for the town. A lot of my mates are now going to the games so I think if I’m playing I’ll get a bit of grief from them, or if I’m sub and warming up I’m sure I’ll hear them.”
It’s a game that seems made for Adams to play in. The 25-year-old returned to action last weekend after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a groin injury, playing the last 15 minutes at Solihull
He was used on the left wing by boss Craig Harrison, but with Nicky Deverdics struggling for fitness, Adams could slot back into the left-back slot against his hometown club.
He added: “I got 90 minutes in a reserve game and it felt fine and then managed to get a minutes last Saturday, so it’s good to be back on the pitch.
“It’s been a bit stop-start. I was flying in pre-season but got a little niggle against Dover and then played four or five games, then it happened again.
Now I’ve got to be patient about getting back in. There’s three or four lads really pushing for a start but the team is on a good run.
“If we keep going as we are we can have a good season but we still haven’t been at our very best.
“On paper, we should win against Shields but games often don’t happen as you want them to. We know it’s going to be a tough game and we won’t take them lightly.
“We want to be in the first round draw so we will be up for this game.
“And it’s just over the road from my house so I’m looking forward to being able to walk to a game for a change!”