Lincoln City goalkeeper Paul Farman will always be grateful to Chris Hughton, but now he is aiming to dump his Brighton and Hove Albion side out of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Farman spent time at Newcastle United’s academy in 2007, as a lifelong Newcastle supporter, his time with the club was special.
He made four appearances for the Magpies youngsters before being released later that year.
Around his time with the St James Park club he also spent time at Monkseaton Academy, before moving into the non-league scene with Blyth Spartans.
A move across the Tyne Gateshead came in 2011, as he helped the Tynesiders consolidate in the top tier of non-league football.
As his time in non-league began Farman was still a regular visitor to St James Park and he witnessed the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2009.
Times were turbulent on Tyneside in the aftermath of the Magpies first relegation since 1989.
Owner Mike Ashley was actively looking to sell the club, big name players like Michael Owen, Damien Duff and Obafemi Martins all departed, no new signings were made and no permanent manager was appointed.
Rumours of a takeover gathered pace, but no deal came to fruition.
Chris Hughton stepped into the role of caretaker manager and looked to steady the ship in the Championship.
Supported by a group of senior players including Steve Harper, Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith, Hughton did more than steady the ship.
Despite working with a small squad, which was only supplemented with loan signings and free transfers, Hughton led the club to the top of the Championship table.
Two months into the season, with the Magpies preparing to host Bristol City, Mike Ashley announced he was taking the club off the market and Hughton was made permanent manager of the club.
The January transfer window brought several signings as the club looked to secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
In late March, thanks to Nottingham Forest’s 0-0 draw with Cardiff, the Magpies top flight return was confirmed.
Two weeks later the Championship title was won, with a 2-0 win at Plymouth Argyle.
Against all the odds, with the spectre of uncertainty lingering, Hughton had secured a place in the club’s history.
Their return to the Premier League was solid but not spectacular.
A 5-1 win over local rivals Sunderland and a 1-0 win at Arsenal were the highlights but in early December, the day after a 3-1 defeat at West Brom, Hughton was sacked.
The Magpies were eleventh in the Premier League at the time.
Hughton is now aiming to replicate his achievement with Newcastle with his current club Brighton and Hove Albion.
They currently sit top of the Championship, coincidentally two points ahead of Newcastle.
On Saturday they head to Sincil Bank, to face Farman’s Lincoln City in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
A special occasion for the Imps, and for Farman, the chance to come up against a man he believes deserves more credit for his work on Tyneside.
He said “Being a season ticket holder at Newcastle you watch some inspiring players and managers, they are heroes to everyone in the city. It means everything.
“Chris Hughton took Newcastle straight back up when it looked as if they were only heading one way and I honestly don’t think he gets enough credit for what he did at the club.
“You look at what is going on there now, with Rafa Benitez and other managers in the past like Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan, maybe because of all of that Chris goes under the radar a bit.
“He has done well at other clubs and he is doing a fantastic job with Brighton. They are in a new stadium, they have a great side. He has them moving in the right direction”
Moving in the right direction is something that the two clubs have in common.
Lincoln City currently sit top of the Vanarama National League, four points ahead of Forest Green Rovers and the Imps have a game in hand.
As well as their remarkable FA Cup run, Farman’s side are still in the FA Trophy and face a Third Round trip to Welling United.
That is all a far cry from last season’s thirteenth place finish.
The turnaround started in the summer as the Imps appointed a management team that had led Braintree Town to an incredible third place finish in the National League last season.
Danny and Nicky Cowley, having forged a promising reputation for themselves at Concord Rangers, had led a semi-professional club into the National League play-offs and, although Braintree’s promotion hopes were ended by Grimsby Town, many clubs with linked with the Cowleys.
Football League clubs were mentioned as possible destinations but it was Lincoln City that captured their signatures, with the brothers making their first move into the professional game.
The move has paid off, with Farman describing the season so far as “simply amazing”.
“It’s been relentless since the start of pre-season. We put a lot of work in on the training ground and it is paying off.
“It’s been an amazing season and we are working hard as a group to keep things going.
“The management team keep us grounded and keep us working hard, we all know what our roles are.
“A lot of work goes on behind the scenes and we are getting the rewards for that, long may it continue”
Their rewards include their giantkilling of former FA Cup winners Ipswich Town in a Third Round replay.
After seeing a late goal dash their hopes of a famous win at Portman Road, the Imps made no mistake on their home patch.
Sincil Bank was rocking as the National League leaders outplayed and outthought their Championship opponents, although they had to wait until injury time for Nathan Arnold’s winning goal.
For Farman, there was the satisfaction of a clean sheet against higher-ranked opponents, something that he believes any keeper would cherish.
“That night made you feel like a proper player.
“The atmosphere, the crowd, the TV being there, everything around it was what you used to dream about.
“In honestly I didn’t have a lot to do on the night. The lads in front of me were awesome; we were awesome as a team.
“But to get a clean sheet, against a big club like them, in a big game like that, was something that was very special to me as a goalkeeper”
Attention now turns to Sincil Bank on Saturday as Brighton and Hove Albion head to Lincoln, hoping to avoid the upset that was inflicted on their Championship rivals two weeks ago.
The clash pits the current leaders of the National League against side sitting top of the Championship.
The Seagulls come into the game in good form, losing only one game in all competitions since October.
The Imps are in good form too.
Before Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat at Barrow, a 2-1 reverse at Guiseley on Boxing Day was the only defeat they have suffered since the start of October.
Despite that run of form, a repeat of their upset against the Tractor Boys would be “a massive ask” according to Farman, although the challenge he is one that he is looking forward to.
“We are looking forward to the game, there is no pressure on us” admitted Farman.
“We know we will give a good account of ourselves against them and we will work hard to make life difficult out there.
“We have a big crowd behind us, they will make a lot of noise and give us all of their support.
“We will be up for the challenge.
“It is a massive ask for us to beat them, we know that, but it’s the FA Cup and although we are playing against a big club, anything can happen”
The scene is set for a massive cup tie and both Farman and Chris Hughton will know only too well that anything can happen in the FA Cup.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)