How US Portsmouth's remarkable FA Vase run and return of non-elite football has helped defender Harry Birmingham away from the pitch
Defender Harry Birmingham revealed how US Portsmouth's magical FA Vase run has continued to help him away from football.
The 22-year-old opened up on the 'real struggles' he was going through during the third national lockdown.
Birmingham, who works as a recruitment consultant, admitted things were made tougher for him without being able to 'release some stresses' with non-elite football stopped from mid-December to late March due to the pandemic.
But, coinciding with USP's training return last month and miraculous run which sees them stand just 90 minutes from Wembley the centre-back has felt a weight begin to ease and things start to look brighter on a personal level.
Enjoying memories to cherish forever in recent weeks, with not just team-mates but close friends, has made the run to the last-four even more special.
He said: ‘Yeah, it has massively (Vase run helping).
‘I went through a stage during lockdown and everything where I was really struggling.
‘But getting back to seeing everyone - this Vase run has helped massively take my mind off things - but also with all the winning, it’s hard to be unhappy when I’m winning games.
‘It’s helped me massively in just being able to see my mates as well; not only are we team-mates, we’re a big group of friends as well.
‘With all the lockdown and football taken away, you go from playing football Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday to no football at all. There’s no real release from stress or anything so it has been massive.
‘For 90 minutes, your mind is completely cleared of everything else, especially in a game; because of how big the games are you’ve only got time to focus on them.
‘You haven’t got time to worry about anything else at all. We’ve got people in the team who can take your mind off things.'
Birmingham and his team-mates stand just one win away from the unlikeliest of finals.
Still only 22, he believes getting to Wembley would eclipse anything else he might achieve in his life.
He said: 'Even if we don’t get there and it comes to it and it’s not our day, I don’t think anything in football will top what we’ve done this year.
‘I’ve played at Portchy (AFC Portchester) in a good team there but in terms of the team spirit and the players we’ve got here, nothing would top it.
'Now we’re so far, 90 minutes from Wembley, you don’t want to lose now. It would have been hard losing (against Flackwell Heath last Saturday) but especially now we’re in a semi-final one game from Wembley. It would be heartbreaking for everyone.
‘I don’t think you’d be able to top it, ever, there’s nothing in my life I’d be able to do in terms of beating that experience (getting to Wembley).'