The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

STAFFORD Rangers. Al­trin­cham. Wey­mouth. Fars­ley Celtic. Scott Laird reels off the way­posts along the path that even­tu­ally led to Manch­ester United.

The Pre­ston left-back’s goal against Louis van Gaal’s men may not have been enough to pre­vent a 3-1 de­feat at Deep­dale on Mon­day night.

But hav­ing slogged his way up from the Con­fer­ence and over­come se­ri­ous in­jury to take his place against the for­mer Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons, Laird had no time for the old maxim about play­ing the game and not the oc­ca­sion.

“We’re all pro­fes­sion­als,” said the 26-year-old, who started out as a trainee at Ply­mouth be­fore mak­ing his name at Steve­nage. “But there’s no get­ting away from it – games like that don’t come along very of­ten.

“It’s Manch­ester United. It’s the FA Cup fifth round. You’d be silly to just ig­nore it. You’ve al­most got to take 30 sec­onds to look around and drink it in and let your­self think ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind this ev­ery week’.

“I was brought up in Non-League and they were great times. I wouldn’t change it for any­thing. But when you’ve had that side of the game you ap­pre­ci­ate nights like Mon­day so much more. You want to show ev­ery­one what you’re made of.

“I think that’s why big teams some­times strug­gle in the Cup. They aren’t used to play­ers with that kind of hunger, do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to prove they’re good enough. It’s just a shame United weren’t one of them.”

Laird’s opener ar­rived just two min­utes into the sec­ond half and, un­til the hour mark, an­other FA Cup shock was on the cards. But goals from An­der Her­rera, Marouane Fel­laini and a late Wayne Rooney penalty ended his hero hopes.

“When you’re play­ing against play­ers of that qual­ity, you au­to­mat­i­cally drop deeper,” says Laird, who joined Pre­ston in the sum­mer of 2012-13 but missed the ma­jor­ity of his first sea­son with a bro­ken leg. “You don’t mean to. I think some­thing in your sub­con­scious is just telling you to pro­tect what you’ve got. It’s hu­man na­ture.”

In the wake of the match, Laird re­vealed that his gran still sends him £1 ev­ery time he scores a goal. That pound has now ar­rived – along with the weekly lo­cal pa­per – and has been added to what Laird calls his “hol­i­day jar”.

“She was watch­ing at home with my mum and my brother,” says Laird. “When I scored, the first thing she said was ‘I owe him a pound’.

“It was nice for her to see it. My dad was at the game with some of my friends but with it be­ing mid­week not every­body could make the jour­ney. But they all watched it some­where and it was great to be able to share that ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple who’ve been there all the way.”

OH YES! Scott Laird scores against Man United

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