A former Sheffield United trainee is preparing for the biggest game of his life ahead of his FA Cup debut this weekend.
Chris Salt, originally from Woodhouse, was an academy player with the Blades for several years before moving into non-league football.
He now plays for Lincolnshire side Stamford AFC, a team five leagues below Sheffield United in the football pyramid. And on Sunday he is likely to start for Stamford - known as The Daniels, after England's one-time fattest man Daniel Lambert - against Hartlepool in the first round of the FA Cup.
“I didn’t expect anything like this when I first signed just a month ago, ” said the 22-year-old defender. “It is unreal. Going to Hartlepool and being on TV in the first round of the FA Cup is a dream. My mates are all buzzing for me and it has been class.
“I still can’t believe I am in the first round of the FA Cup. I can remember watching Salford on the TV last year and their success in the competition. Now that could be us.
“This means so much to the fans, the club and the players. It is the biggest game of my career.
“I have played for Sheffield Utd reserves against Sheffield Wednesday and that was big, but this is proper first-team football.
“I have not played in a massive game like this before. There will be a lot of our fans there at Hartlepool and a great atmosphere.
“We need to be at our best. We don’t want to go there and get turned over.
“We want to go all out and give everything. We might never have a chance like this again.”
FA Cup underdogs Stamford AFC looking to bite favourites Hartlepool on Sunday
The game will be the Daniels' first appearance in the FA Cup first round proper, after they beat Conference North side Wrexham AFC in a replay in the final qualifying round. The game will be part of the BBC’s Sunday Final Score live highlights programme.
Chris learned his trade in the academy at Sheffield United - he is a staunch Blades fan - and has since played for Worksop Town in the EvoStick League, Buxton in the Northern Premier League and Gainsborough Trinity in the Conference North before joining Clipstone Welfare last season in the Northern Counties East League, and then moving to Stamford.
“Sometimes in football you have to drop down to go forward and that is what I did," he said. "I have always believed in myself and now I am really enjoying my football. I try to play out of my skin each week and I am feeling more confident.
“I am only 22 and I have still got quite a bit to learn, but things are good.”
The Daniels will take more than 350 fans on the 160 mile journey north up the A1 for Sunday's 2pm kick-off.
Among them will be Chris's dad, also called Chris, who travels from his home in Woodhouse to watch Stamford regularly.
He is feeling a mixture of pride and trepidation ahead of the big game.
"We've had some good days, some semi-finals watching Sheffield United, but the replay against Wrexham beat the lot," he said. "It was a cracking game.
"I'm going to go to Hartlepool but I'm not looking forward to it much. I will be thinking 'please don't make a mistake'.
"But I'm feeling really proud."
Chris was full of praise for his son's coaches at Stamford - and their love of the family dog, he takes with him to games.
He has his fingers crossed for a win, which could bring a meeting with a South Yorkshire team, including Doncaster Rovers - and the Salts' beloved Blades, should they beat Leyton Orient in their own first round game.
"I would rather Stamford drew a smaller team so they have a better chance of getting to the third round and playing someone like Man Utd," joked Chris.
"But my son would love to play Sheffield United, or Chesterfield, where his old coaches Danny Wilson and Chris Morgan are."
Follow the Star's FA Cup coverage this weekend at www.thestar.co.uk/sport/football.
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