Stephen Cockcroft

Year? 2009+2011

Position? Left Wing

Manager? John Bailie

Team? Junior Team (2009) + Premier Team (2011)

 

What do you remember?

Well what stands out from the first Milk Cup I played in, was the game against Aspire (Premier team, 2011). They were the team that hammered Manchester United and we ran them really close. It was 0-0 until the last 10 minutes. We didn’t create too many chances. We realized how good they were and packed the midfield. We put them under a lot of pressure and worked very hard. In the end, it was a set-piece goal that proved to be our undoing. After that in the last minute they scored a break away goal, but considering how they tore Manchester United apart in the final 2-0 was a good result. That year we had a great side, there have been a number of players from that team who have gone on to represent teams like Burnley and Nottingham Forest in England. For those who didn’t make it to England it was a week in your life when you got to sample life as a professional footballer. The success we had was all down to John Bailie and Davy Bryson. Loads of hard work on and off the training ground really paid off. We felt very confident going into the tournament. Davy and John were very committed and enthusiastic and that realty rubbed off on the players, we were all raring to go. We were certainly the best county side that year, I mean in the games leading up to the tournament, we beat every including County Antrim who had Ryan McLaughlin (Now at Liverpool) playing. There was no one to touch us.

 

 

Favorite memory?

 

“Well personally scoring against County Armagh in the opening game was incredible (Premier Team 2011). Stephen McCullough played the ball in. I was at the back post, and managed to out-jump the right back and loop the ball over the keeper and into the net. It was the first header I had ever scored, and do it with all your family and friends watching, was a bit overwhelming and something I will never forget. But to be honest, the whole experience was incredible. From the parade on the Sunday night when your mixing with players from across the world and from clubs like Manchester United is all a bit surreal, because you realize that players are coming from all over the world, to your country. It’s an emotional experience.

 

 

Since the Milk Cup?

Following the 2011 Dale Farm Milk Cup, I soon began playing in Linfield reserves. I was lucky enough to make a few first team appearances in pre-season friendlies and was on the fringes for a while, and then I went on Loan to Ards to get some first team experience. At the end of the season, I signed for Welders. I stayed there a year, got young player of the year and earned myself a move to Crusaders. Whilst I was there I played in the Europa League, and managed to get two assists and a goal, which was another big moment for me, and one I will always treasure. We beat Kaunas 3-1 at home and 2-1 away to proceed into the second qualifying round of the Europa league. To put that into context it had been 20 years since a Crusaders side, had got as far as we did. We then travelled to Sweden to play against IF Brommapojkarna. They had a 40,000 seater-stadium, and even though it was only half full, it was still far and away the biggest crowd I had played in front of. It was great to get some game time in that environment. However, I was in and out of the side, and struggled a little bit with injuries so it got to the stage when I just wanted to get out on loan and get some game time under my belt. Now hopefully, we can get promoted.