Man of steel Monty relishing Heskey reunion

FOR Mariners midfielder Nick Montgomery, Saturday’s F3 Derby contest against the Jets won’t be the first time that he has come up against Newcastle’s marquee man Emile Heskey.

FOR Mariners midfielder Nick Montgomery, Saturday-s F3 Derby contest against the Jets won-t be the first time that he has come up against Newcastle-s marquee man Emile Heskey.

Indeed, Montgomery and Heskey share quite a history having faced off in numerous important matches down the years.

“He-s had a fantastic career,” Montgomery said of Heskey. “I-ve been fortunate to play against him a couple of times. He-s a big, strong, powerful striker. He brings other players into play and obviously gets his fair share of goals as well.”

A few games in particular stand out as crucial clashes between the tough-as-nails midfielder Montgomery, and the burly 34-year-old target man Heskey.

In 2007, Montgomery-s former club Sheffield United met Heskey-s Wigan Athletic on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season. Showing his passion, fight and commitment to the Sheffield cause, Montgomery played through the pain barrier to participate in the match despite having been stretched off with a dislocated shoulder against Aston Villa a week earlier.

Unfortunately for the Blades and Montgomery, a 45th minute Wigan penalty combined with a Carlos Tevez inspired West Ham win over Manchester United at Old Trafford cruelly condemned Sheffield to the drop on goal difference.

“I remember the day and we just needed Manchester United to win at home to West Ham and it wouldn-t have mattered what result we had. But unfortunately for me ‘Man United- lost to West Ham and we conceded a penalty to Wigan that day which got us relegated from the Premier League.

“It was a massive, massive blow for my career and obviously a bad memory, but that-s all in the past now,” he said.

In 2003, Montgomery-s Sheffield went on a stellar run in England-s Carling Cup competition. At this time, Heskey wore the red of Liverpool rather than the blue and white of Wigan, and the two teams met over two legs in the semi-final.

In the first leg Montgomery played 90 minutes, helping the Blades to a famous 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Bramall Lane. Heskey warmed the pine for Gerard Houllier-s men.

In the second leg, Montgomery played 45 minutes against the Reds at Anfield in front of 43,837 fans. An ankle injury sustained in a challenge with John Arne Riise forced Montgomery from the field, before Michael Owen-s extra time goal earned Liverpool their ticket to the Carling Cup showpiece at Cardiff-s Millennium Stadium. Heskey played the full 120 minutes while Senegalese forward El Hadji Diouf netted the goal which ultimately took the tense tie to extra time.

Not one to dwell on the past, Montgomery is instead relishing the chance to participate in this weekend-s F3 Derby game having played dozens of ‘Steel City Derbies- (Sheffield United vs. Sheffield Wednesday) in the past. The Steel City Derby is widely considered to be England-s most hotly contested clash, so Montgomery is certainly well versed in what it takes to triumph against a local rival.

“There-s always just a massive buzz,” Montgomery said of derby games. “For the fans it-s great became when you live in such close proximity to another team you get family members who support one team and family members who support the other team.

“The whole week and in the build up towards the game there-s a lot of tension.

“Derby games are fast and ferocious and obviously it-s a high pressure game and probably a hundred mile an hour.

“But I think we-ve shown against Perth that we-ve got the qualities in the team to battle against strong physical teams, and when we get the ball we-ve passed it well.

“We can pass it a lot better and there-s a lot more to come, but it-s early in the season and we-ll go there full of confidence,” Montgomery concluded.

Newcastle Jets vs. Central Coast Mariners Saturday 20 October, 2012 - Kick-off: 5:30pm (local) Hunter Stadium, Newcastle Tickets: Please CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to the match. Transport: Please CLICK HERE to book your seat on the official Mariners match day bus thanks to Coastal Liner. Twitter: Join the match conversation on Twitter using the official match hashtag #F3Derby & #GoMariners