Ryan Bird fired Cambridge United to FA Trophy glory over Gosport Borough and declared: It’s a great achievement.
This time last year, Bird was working as an electrician while playing part-time for Burnham in the eighth tier of English football.
But fast-forward 12 months, the 26-year-old now has a Wembley winners medal to go alongside a trio of goals in professional football for Pompey.
And it was the Blues loanee’s 38th-minute opener – his seventh in an 11-game spell at the U’s – that inspired the Skrill Premier high-flyers to a 4-0 victory over Borough.
Bird said: ‘From Burnham to Wembley, it’s a great achievement. I do have to pinch myself that I’m scoring a goal at Wembley and we’ve won 4-0.’
Bird insisted that an early miss did not put him out of his stride as he calmly latched onto Ryan Donaldson’s incisive through ball to lob the U’s ahead.
But the striker was quick to pay respect to a familiar face as he was made to wait for his moment to savour.
He said: ‘Nathan Ashmore trained with me at Pompey and he made a great save to deny me, early on.
‘But I was confident when I was played in again that I would lob it over him.’
And having ended a 45-year wait for cup success for Cambridge, Bird is already eyeing a return trip to the home of football, to cap a remarkable year.
However, it remains unclear whether he will play a part in any future success for the U’s with his loan spell due to expire before the end of the season.
‘Hopefully the lads will be back here again for the Conference play-off final.
‘The cherry on top of the year would be Cambridge getting promoted.’
– JEFF MARSHMAN