John Murphy was full of pride after watching his youth side secure a place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup by defeating Southampton on penalties.
The under-18s fought back from a goal down to beat a Category 1 Academy, renowned for bringing through the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse in the past, 4-2 on spot-kicks.
For Murphy, who was successful as a player with Blackpool, it was a magnificent night and achievement, made all the more memorable in the presence of the first-team staff and squad.
“They’ve worked their socks off and I couldn’t be any more prouder,” he beamed. “It was a phenomenal evening. The good thing was that all the first-team staff were here and all the first-team players were here and they’ve come into the dressing room and given everyone a hug and drenched them with water. That’s what it’s all about.
“Those people are where they are trying to get to, and by performing like that they might get there. They’ve given themselves a good chance.”
Fin Sinclair-Smith’s second-half equaliser took the match to extra-time and penalties, with Murphy’s intervention at the interval helping his side turn the tie around.
“I’ll be honest, I was a bit worried at half-time – we went in at 1-0 down to the worst set-piece goal I’ve ever seen. We nearly conceded with five minutes to go and they’ve hit the post from 25-yards,” he said.
“We said to them ‘don’t waste your opportunity’ at half-time and ‘leave everything out there’. In the second-half I thought we were the strongest team.
“Extra-time was a bit cagey, but then we went on to pens and it came down to character then. I’ve got lads that would have took pens but didn’t because they couldn’t walk. Dylan Sumner has took one and unfortunately it looked like he was injured on his penalty.”
Goalkeeper Craig Thordarson, who saved a penalty against West Ham United in the previous round, denied Southampton twice in the shoot-out to help seal the victory and set up a tie against Ipswich Town.
“Craig was part-hero last time and the hero again tonight. It was analysis. We’d seen their number nine’s last two penalties and he’d gone down the middle. Craig has been brave enough to think that, because he could have looked stupid if he’d have stood there. Dawesy (Ian Dawes), my assistant, has reiterated that he should look at his pens, and Craig has kept that in his mind.
“We’ve now beat West Ham and Southampton, and it doesn’t happen by chance that. In one you might get lucky, but I thought we deserved it against West Ham and I thought, certainly from half-time, that we deserved to beat Southampton.”
Last night’s result was particularly satisfying for Murphy, given how close Blackpool have been to pulling off shocks previously in his time with the youth team.
“I think it’s four times we’ve lost in extra-time so we were due one. We deserved better out of those other games and ran out of steam, if you like. I thought we finished strongly last night, though,” he added.