Johnny Herd knows all about the magic of the FA Cup . . . and not just because of St Neots Town’s exploits.
While Herd did skipper Saints to their unforgettable 4-3 comeback triumph against Romulus in the second qualifying round recently with regular captain Luke Knight suspended, his own great memories in the most famous competition of them all stretch back more further than that.
Then an emerging teenager, Herd played for Southend in a third round tie against Premier League giants Chelsea back in January, 2009.
He helped the League One side to a 1-1 draw in front of more than 41,000 at Stamford Bridge with their late equaliser coming from one of his trademark long throws. Southend were then beaten 4-1 in the replay at Roots Hall.
And Herd also reached the first round proper back in 2013 when playing for National League South side Bishop’s Stortford as they featured in a live televised game against League Two strugglers Northampton Town – one that ended in a 2-1 defeat.
“I’ve had some great memories in the FA Cup,” said Herd. “Playing against Chelsea at such a young age was right up there with the best moments in my career.
“I was 19 at the time. It was obviously a terrific experience and to have a hand in the goal at Stamford Bridge was a brilliant feeling.
“I was up against Joe Cole in the first game and then had to mark Salomon Kalou in the replay.
“Southend had a left-back – Dan Harding – on loan that season, but he wasn’t allowed to play in the FA Cup and I was trusted to come in.
“I made my debut in the first round, played again in the second round and also against Chelsea.
“Reaching the first round with Bishop’s Stortford and playing on TV is another great memory in the FA Cup for me.
“I’ve not had much joy over the last few years, but it’s great to be having a good run again this season.”
Herd played a key role in Saints’ stunning comeback from 3-0 down against Romulus. He had a hand in their second goal and hit the 85th minute equaliser before Dion Sembie-Ferris produced a last-gasp winner.
And he is confident they can continue their run when hosting fellow Southern League Premier Division Central side Coalville in the third qualifying round this Saturday, 3pm.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played in the third round at a Premier League ground and played in the Football League, but that comeback was right up there with my best experiences in football,” added Herd.
“Games like that are very rare and the buzz in the changing room afterwards was brilliant.
“We all believed we could get a draw and earn a replay, but to win it was unbelievable from 3-0 down.
“We’re happy to be at home again in this round against Coalville and all the boys are really positive that we can get a result to keep the run going.”