The period between his last game against Tottenham Hotspur two-and-a-half years ago and today’s meeting with the Premier League high flyers in the FA Cup has taught Owen Garvan much about the fickle nature of football.
Back in August 2013, the Irishman had finally arrived on the top-flight stage, fresh from helping Crystal Palace to promotion, and seemingly on course to reassert his claims for an international breakthrough.
A very public falling-out with then manager Ian Halloway restricted his Premier League tenancy to just one more game, a precursor to a period in the wilderness compounded by injury woes and a couple of brief loan stints with Millwall and Bolton.
Facing an uncertain future and his 29th birthday after his Palace contract lapsed in the summer, Garvan found solace in the unlikely setting of League One strugglers Colchester United.
It might not possess the glamour of the Premier League or Roy Keane’s era as Ipswich Town manager, when Garvan was more out of than in the Corkman’s team, but for the benefit of his sanity, there’s no better habitat to occupy for now.
“I’m doing something that I haven’t done for over two years, which is play games on a weekly basis,” said the former Home Farm man.
“Sure, we’re struggling in a relegation battle but we’ve some good young players and I believe we can give Tottenham a good game if we believe in ourselves.
“I’m just glad to be back playing. Reserve team football is well off the scene, people soon forget about you, and it’s not good for confidence.
“Then, when I came free, it wasn’t a case of walking straight into a new club. There are so many players available to clubs that they can be picky and even want you to come on trial.
“That wasn’t something I expected after spending a decade in English football but it had to be done and it worked out well that I ended up signing for Colchester this season.”
Today’s occasion will be the biggest of the season at the Colchester Community Stadium, some respite from a winless slump stretching back to October.
Respective league form indicates a stroll into the fifth round for Dele Alli-inspired Spurs but the hottest property in the Premier League plied his trade in League One last season and the underdogs are not whimpering at the task ahead.
“I see it as an even contest,” reasoned Garvan.
“Tottenham are going to be nervous at the prospect of being knocked out by a lower league club and the pressure is on them to progress.
“The game will be completely different to what Spurs face on a weekly basis, much more physical and fast.
“I’ve played in plenty of cup ties so hopefully can help some of the younger players deal with the occasion.
“It’s a game I’m really looking forward to. The fans will make it a great atmosphere and I’m going into it with an attitude of wanting and believing that we can beat Tottenham.
“Some teams don’t play their strongest teams in the cup but our manager does and I know what we’re capable of.
“It’s the FA Cup, one of the biggest competitions in England, and we’re the home side. Just because it’s Tottenham doesn’t mean I’m overawed. I just think anything can happen on the day and we’ve to make sure we make the most of chances if they come our way.”
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