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Justin Perry
TNS striker Justin Perry is relishing a chance to come face to face with his idol Kevin Keegan, when Saints tackle Premiership giants Manchester City in Thursday's Uefa Cup opener.
The TNS marksman has been savouring the prospect of the "dream" tie ever since the draw was made back in June - and hopes to fulfill one burning ambition at the new City of Manchester Stadium.
A life-long Newcastle fan, the 30-year-old Geordie admits to being an ardent supporter of Keegan, one time player and manager of the Magpies.
"I still live in the North East and Keegan is my all-time hero. He's the Messiah up here," he said.
"It's a dream to be playing in such a European tie like this and I really hope to get a chance to meet him and shake his hand before or after the game."
Perry, formerly on Sunderland's books, is a particular fan of Keegan's attacking approach to the game, but admits that could give TNS a real headache.
"His style does give you a chance and it's up to us to try and take what chances come along," he said.
"But we also know that they could be a real handful going forward and we're under no illusions we'll have to defend really well. The first 20 minutes will be so important."
Perry admits the atmosphere of such a big European tie against the likes of Anelka, Fowler and Seaman will be daunting for the players who play in far humbler surroundings, watched by just a few hundred spectators.
"It's the biggest game of the career for all our players, no doubt about it," he said.
"We have to make sure we're not overawed by the experience and it's up to the older players to help the younger boys."
After leaving Sunderland, Perry went to play in Scotland before plying his trade with the likes of Ebbw Vale and Barry Town in South Wales. He then had a spell in Australia, before agreeing to join Saints two years ago.
"The move to TNS has worked out really well for me and to tackle Man City and Kevin Keegan in the Uefa Cup is an unbelievable experience," he said.
"At this stage of my career, it's the sort of game you dream about."

[John Bridgwater, Shropshire Star]

12 August 2021