By Richard Cawley
Shawn McCoulsky has admitted that his last-gasp winner for Newport County to knock Leeds United out of the FA Cup on Sunday is a career highlight.
Millwall are the only South London club left in the competition but the former Dulwich Hamlet striker, born and raised in Lewisham, is also set to play his part in the fourth round.
Next up for Newport County is a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
And McCoulsky, on loan from Championship side Bristol City, is not writing off Mike Flynn’s side causing an even bigger upset.
His bullet header from an 89th-minute corner toppled Leeds in a perfect example of the kind of giantkillings which litter the history of the FA Cup.
And McCoulsky does not want the big scalps to end there. He said: “Of course we can cause another upset. Anything is possible in the FA Cup, as you saw Sunday and also with Coventry knocking out Stoke, a Premier League team.
“I’d have loved the [Tottenham] match to have been at Wembley but it will also be a very special day at Rodney Parade, and then there is the financial side as well. I just hope we can get our fans behind us again and see what happens.
“I grew up supporting Manchester United. That’s the one I was looking forward to getting in Monday’s draw but they are going to another League Two team [Yeovil Town].”
It was a weekend to remember for McCoulsky. He turned 21 on Saturday and then scored his 11th goal of the campaign – by far the most headline-grabbing.
“As a kid growing up, watching the FA Cup on TV with your brothers and sisters, it is what dreams are made of,” he said. “To score in the last minute against a big team like Leeds was an unbelievable moment. I’ll never forget it.
“I would say it is up there with scoring on my professional debut and signing a professional contract. Those were big landmarks too.”
McCoulsky had a six-week trial with Fulham as well as training with Crystal Palace and Norwich before joining Aspire Academy, which is run under the umbrella of Dulwich Hamlet by Gavin Rose, academy director, and Junior Kadi, academy manager.
Rose is the long-serving boss at Dulwich – Bostik League Premier Division leaders – with Kadi in the number two role.
If things had been different McCoulsky could have ended up at Millwall as clubs circled following his performances for the non-league outfit in the summer of 2015.
“Both they and Brentford were interested,” he said. “I trained with Millwall in pre-season and I injured my ankle. They treated me. Then I went to Bristol City in November 2015.
“I was a right-back when I trialled at Fulham. I only started playing as a striker the season before I got my move. It was a mutual decision between myself, Junior and Gavin. I’d scored about 40 goals in the youth team and I found my position.
“My time at Aspire and Dulwich helped me a hell of a lot. I think I was 17 when I made my FA Cup debut. They love pushing players on – as you’ve seen in the past with the ones who have gone into professional teams.”
McCoulsky has started seven of his 18 league matches for Newport. He has netted in both his FA Cup outings and got a double in the EFL Cup victory at Southend United.
“My goals-to-minutes ratio is probably very good as well,” he said. “It’s pleasing what I have done so far, hopefully I can score more goals.
“I respect what the manager has done and I’ve got to keep proving I am available for that start and try to affect the game when I come off the bench.
“Initially I signed on loan until January 1 but I’ve just extended that until the end of the season. They have given me my Football League debut and I wanted to repay them.
“I want to play at the highest level possible. I’d love to play for Bristol City at first-team level.”
Before that, McCoulsky could be on the same pitch as one of the top strikers in European football – Harry Kane. The England international scored twice in the 3-0 win over AFC Wimbledon in the previous round.
“He has been breaking records and has got the most goals in the Premier League for two seasons on the trot,” said the young South Londoner. “He is someone I look up to. It would be a dream to play in the same match as him.
“Hopefully I’d get his shirt. On Sunday I turned around and there were hundreds of fans on the pitch and I got caught up in all the celebrations.”