Former England defender Gary Stevens experienced some big games during his proud playing career.
But the veteran of two FA Cup finals at Wembley rates his achievement of helping Sligo Rovers FC reach the showpiece of the main cup competition in the Republic of Ireland on a par with the great matches of his own playing days.
Now 51, Stevens arrived in Ireland at the start of the year, having been brought to Sligo in an assistant manager's role by their first-team boss, fellow Englishman Ian Baraclough. Stevens previously worked alongside Tony Adams in Azerbaijan at Qäbälä FK.
The 2013 Irish Premier Division finished with Sligo surrendering the title to Saint Patrick's Athletic FC, but the Bit O' Red can still end the season with a trophy. On Sunday, at 15.30 local time, they face Drogheda United FC in the FAI Cup final at the Dublin Arena.
"Whether it's the FAI Cup final here in Ireland or the FA Cup final in England, it's the biggest domestic cup final in the country and this final, to me, is as big and as important as the ones I played in," Stevens told UEFA.com.
"I have a bit of a track record in the cups. I played in two FA Cup finals in England. With Brighton and Hove Albion in 1983 we were beaten by Manchester United in a replay after drawing 2-2 on the Saturday – I scored in that game. I was back again in '87 with Tottenham Hotspur – we lost to Coventry City.
"I had other finals as well. I played in the UEFA Cup final with Tottenham in '84. It went to penalties against Anderlecht; I took one of the penalties and we won. I also got to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship final with England in '84, when we beat Spain over two legs."
After that spell in Azerbaijan, Stevens established a good working relationship with Baraclough. Although Sligo were disappointed not to retain the championship – coming third, five points behind St Patrick's – the English management duo are proud of their work and hope for more cheer in the final, the club's fourth in five campaigns.
"It has been a successful season already. We finished in the top three and qualified for Europe, which was important to nail down," added Stevens. "We got to two semi-finals and one final, so it has not been a bad season. Only two teams can win the cup and we're one of them."
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