Darren's Trip Down Memory Lane
DARREN Purse is looking forward to playing against his the club with which he came of age and made his name – but hopes the result will be different from last time he faced them.New Pilgrims’ skipper Darren played getting on for 200 times for Birmingham City, who visit Home Park on Saturday, including the 2001 Worthington Cup final against Liverpool.
The high point of his St Andrews’ career between 1998-2004 came at the Millennium Stadium in the second season of the 21st century, when Blues were edged out by Liverpool in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.
Purse not only kept Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey and Nick Barmby at bay, but scored the Birmingham goal, converting a 90th-minute penalty no less, and kept his cool again to net from 12 yards in the shoot-out.
Pursey’s blue period remains the fondest part of his playing days. So far, at least.
“It’s a club I’ve got a lot of affiliation with,” said the 35-year-old central defender. “I loved playing for the club, and it gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League.
“My biggest memory from Birmingham was the first year playing in the Premier League because it was a massive season for the club.
“From a personal note, scoring in a cup final is always massive but probably playing in the Premier League is bigger than that.
“We were knocking on the door for four years. We missed out for three years but got promoted in the fourth year, and stayed up in our first year when we were favourites for relegation.
“Missing out was a heartache, but I think you come back bigger and stronger for it. It took us four years but it made it all the sweeter when it happened.
“Never to have been relegated from the Premier League is probably my biggest achievement. To have played for two clubs that were always favourites to go down and not get relegated is a great thing to have on my cv and one that I am really happy about.
“Last year was the tenth anniversary celebrations for the promotion, which was fantastic. It shows the way the club was when you had people like Stan Lazaridis flying over from Australia; Nico Vaesen from Belgium; Stern John from Trinidad.
“It was a good, family club and people really enjoyed playing for them. For people to travel so many mile shows how high the regard they are held there.
“I spent almost eight years at Birmingham. All my kids are born in Warwickshire – Warwick Hospital – and still sort of live in the midlands.”
No that there has been any sentiment since. Or will be on Saturday.
“I’ve only ever played them once since and that was when I went back with West Brom and got beaten 5-0,” he said. “I hope that won’t happen again.
“They have had a lot of turmoil over the last year or two and they are slowly rebuilding.
“Chris Hughton built a good foundation at the club last year and I think [new manager] Lee Clark will do well. It’s too big a club to be outside the Premier League. The fans and everyone around the club deserve that.
“It will be nice to have them down at Home Park. It is only pre-season so, even though the result doesn’t matter, it would be nice to get a scalp of a Championship side.”