Wembley-bound striker reflects on Sundeerland blow aged just 16

Gavin Cogdon celebrates a goal with Julio Arca. Picture by Peter Talbot.
Gavin Cogdon celebrates a goal with Julio Arca. Picture by Peter Talbot.
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Gavin Cogdon is hoping to repeat his Wembley heroics of four years ago as he continues to make up for his Sunderland heartache.

The little forward was released from his boyhood club aged 16, and admits he initially struggled to cope with the rejection.

But since then he has carved out a career as one of the best non-league strikers in the region, and was an instrumental part in Spennymoor Town’s success, scoring the opener at Wembley in their 2013 FA Vase triumph.

The 34-year-old has shown that being released as a youngster doesn’t mean the end of a footballing career as he prepares for a second trip to the famous stadium when South Shields take on Cleethorpes in the Vase final on Sunday.

He said: “I almost wanted to stop playing. It didn’t make sense to me.

“I wasn’t prepared for being released. Looking back, I almost wish 18 or 19 was the cut-off point. Sixteen is too early.

“I had a lot of growth and I was still developing. I didn’t understand the game.

“Now, I look back - and with time you obviously learn so much - but I just think if I’d been given a couple more years it would probably have worked out differently.”

Things have certainly worked out over the last decade for the Wearsider. He went off to Sunderland University where he gained qualifications in fitness and health and established himself as a potent striker on the region’s non-league scene.

His bullet header set Moors on their way four years ago, and while he admits he would love to score at Wembley again on Sunday, he doesn’t care who is on the scoresheet as long as Shields beat Cleethorpes.

Speaking about his header, Cogdon said: “Some people say it was unusual for my size, but I have scored a few. I took it well on the day.

“Seeing it hit the back of the net was such a good feeling. It’s every boy’s dream. Words can’t do it justice.

“I just want to win the game on Sunday first and foremost, and if it means I get to experience that (scoring) again or another lad does, I’ll be happy.

“It was a really hot day. When people ask what it was like and that’s always the first thing I say. We’ve got a 12.15 kick-off this year so potentially it could be hotter.

“You feel a lot of pressure on you. The fans travel a long way, especially us up north travelling down south. You just want to do it for everybody, win it on the day.”