FA CUP FEATURE: Stevenage coach Nicky Shorey out to make more memories at Reading as he recalls the 'surreal' day he played for England against the mighty Brazil
PUBLISHED: 12:15 16 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 17 January 2018
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The memory burns bright even for such a modest man.
June 1, 2007. England hosted Brazil at the revamped Wembley Stadium in front of 88,745 fans.
The so-called ‘Golden Generation’ were on the pitch. A quick scan of the line-up 11 years on reveals captain and leader, if not Three Lions legend, John Terry led the team out. Steven Gerrard and Frankie Lampard paired up in middle, with the former already a Champions League winner and the latter to lift the trophy five years later.
A previous Real Madrid forward – and past European Footballer of the Year winner – Michael Owen played up front while David ‘Goldenballs’ Beckham was in midfield.
And at left-back during the creditable 1-1 draw was Romford-born Nicholas Robert Shorey.
If you were to do a double take at the name you wouldn’t have been the only one.
For the-then Reading man Nicky Shorey did so too. Despite starring for the Biscuitmen in their successful quest in reaching the promised land of the Premier League, earning a reputation as a reliable left-footed player not afraid to supplement attacks, Shorey too was a little disconcerted to see his name on the teamsheet.
Speaking to CometSport he recalled that distant match with a large does of wonder.
“It’s still surreal to this day when people ask me about it”, he says with the merest hint of a smile betraying incredulity more than a decade on.
“I always say the same thing, I go round my mum and dads and there’s a picture of Beckham, Carragher, JT, the whole team – and friends and family always joke: ‘Who’s that little guy standing next to David Beckham?’
“It was a dream you know, especially because we just got promoted that season and we just did really well and to get that on top of it is unreal.
“The thing with football is that one minute you could be playing in the Championsip , the next against Rondaldinho at Wembley.
“It throws up things out of nowhere.
“I see pictures and I get the hairs on the back of my neck stand up so I’m very lucky to have had that.”
When this correspondent mentions he attended the Brazil game, quick as a flash the good-natured Shorey shoots back with a joke: “I bet you were one of those booing me’, before adding with an endearing observation, “I felt exactly as you did going as a fan,” before concluding: “It was a surreal day but probably the best achievement in my career and I’m thankful I was lucky enough to do that.”
Shorey’s legacy at Reading is assured at the Berkshire club where his quality, honesty and consistency over the course of two spells totalling eight years was surely enough to elevate him into the pantheon of Royals greats including the legendary Robin Friday, Trevor Senior and Steve Death.
Yet Shorey is now forging a second career in football.
As a bright, young English coach, helping the highly-rated Darren Sarll navigate through the difficult obstacles of League Two sides who prefer route one to the enterprising attacking intensity the North Herts side show on good days.
With Boro drawn out of the hat to face Jaap Stam’s Reading side in the third round of the FA Cup, after an excellent 5-2 thumping of Swindon Town in the previous round following a 5-0 defeat of Northern Premier League Nantwich Town in the first round, hopes were high of an upset against the struggling visitors to the homely Lamex.
The goalless stalemate on the day belied the attacking verve of Sarrl’s side as the teams prepare to clash again at the Madjeski Stadium on Tuesday evening.
How did Shorey feel?
“I remember watching the draw and saw the ball come up. I thought I’ll check the numbers again and was shocked. It was like it was meant to be.
“Things like that just happen don’t they? My dad still works there so he’s trying to get the formation out of me.
“We just want to win the tie.”
As Stevenage prepare to give their all in the hope of an upset – and a place in the fourth round away to either Carlisle or Sheffield Wednesday – Shorey, like all good professionals is only looking at the result.
“We’ll be looking to beat Reading. I won’t be thinking about anything else.
“I’m there to go and do my job like the rest of us, and if we get a win I might get a bit more emotional but I’m looking to do my job just like every game really.
“The good thing about Reading is there is still so many people working there from when I was there.
“It’s got that feel about it and it’s nice to see all those people and I still stay in contact with former players that I used to play with.
“Apart from my dad at the moment. He’s been keeping quiet – he hasn’t answered his phone this week!”
Shorey won’t feel a pang of emotion when the teams come out at 8pm?
“No”, he replies emphatically. “That’s for afterwards and as a coach its all about the players, they worked hard to get there so it should all be about them.”
Shorey saves the sentimentality for those rare moments when he looks at the picture hanging proudly on the wall of his parents home of the day he played for England against the mighty Brazil all those years ago.
For this rising young coach is out to make more memories at Reading.
But this time he hopes it will be with Stevenage FC.
Follow Layth on Twitter @laythy29