Liverpool has a special meaning for Dempster
JOHN Dempster can finally turn a dream into reality for not just himself, but his family too.
The big central defender put Mansfield ahead in the 2-1 win against Lincoln to set up a mouth-watering FA Cup tie against Premier League Liverpool.
His header hit the post and deflected in off goalkeeper Paul Farman on Wednesday night in the second round replay, before Louis Briscoe struck the winner, this after Adam Smith had equalised for the Imps.
But it will mean just as much for his dad, who grew up in the same Scottish mining village of Glenbuck as legendary Liverpool boss Bill Shankly.
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It was there that, despite the family moving south to Corby, the family affiliation with the five-times European Cup and seven-times FA Cup winning Reds developed.
But while the midweek success was a huge highlight in his career, he was masking heartache as one of his best friends, former Corby player Andrew Brown, 32, died just a fortnight earlier, leaving Dempster devastated.
He is one person who will not see Dempster fulfil a boyhood dream of playing against Liverpool, but the Stags captain said he will always be at the forefront of his mind.
Dempster said: "I lost a dear friend a couple of weeks ago and he was the first person I thought of when the ball went into the back of the net.
"That was for him, Andrew Brown. He played for Corby and he died unexpectedly. It was devastating. He was one of my best friends . . ."
His tear-filled eyes then moved onto another subject, that of Shankly.
For Dempster's 13th birthday, he was at the pulsating game when Newcastle lost 4-3 to Liverpool at Anfield as Toon boss Kevin Keegan hung over the advertising boards in disbelief.
So Liverpool at home on Sunday, January 6 brings even more significance for his family.
"My dad is from the same village as Shankly so it is the team we supported at school," he said. "It will be a huge game for all our friends and family.
"My dad wrote to him as a little boy and we still have the letters at home.
"And I went to the Newcastle 4-3 game and it was for my 13th birthday, which was great. I have been to Anfield a few times but this game will be something to treasure."
The same goes for Manchester United fan Briscoe, who struck the winning goal to seal victory against Lincoln.
He could not help but look back on the journey that got them to this stage.
A mammoth trip to Workington in the fourth qualifying round for a 2-1 win, being taken to a replay at Slough in round one before winning on penalties.
And then two games against Lincoln, the original tie which ended in a 3-3 draw thanks to Mansfield's Matt Rhead bagging a last-gasp equaliser.
"It is an amazing feeling," he said. "To know we have Liverpool here.
"We knew that is what we would get if we won against Lincoln but you don't get too far ahead of yourself, you just have to focus.
"We worked hard, concentrated and got the job done. We used it to our advantage and kept plugging away."