SOMEWHERE in his swanky Surrey mansion, Didier Drogba is housing a Michael Rankine Scunthorpe United top.
Or, at least, you would hope he still is, having literally once asked for the shirt off the current York City striker’s back after being accosted in the players’ tunnel at Stamford Bridge.
Rankine, then 19, was a surprise inclusion in the Iron’s starting line-up during a 2004/5 FA Cup third round tie against Chelsea after Steve Torpey, now youth-team manager at Bootham Crescent, picked up an untimely suspension.
Less than a year after playing Northern Counties East League football with Armthorpe Rovers, Rankine then found himself in the surreal situation of celebrating Paul Hayes’ eighth-minute opening goal in front of 40,000 fans at the home of the soon-to-be Premier League champions.
Chelsea, boasting the likes of Drogba, Joe Cole, Glenn Johnson and Eidur Gudjohnsen, eventually levelled the scores midway through the first half with a deflected goal from Serbian international Mateja Kezman.
The Iron’s fate was then sealed after the break when Andy Crosby put through his own goal and Gudjohnsen added a third.
But, having rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s greats as a raw teenager, Rankine, who only made two other first-team starts during 16 months with the Glanford Park club, realises how close he could be from living the dream again as the Minstermen fight for a place in the third round draw at Cambridge United this afternoon.
Recalling his shirt-swapping encounter with Ivory Coast international Drobga, Rankine said: “I was substituted at the same time as him and I was a bit hesitant at first because I didn’t want to come across as a stalker, but I ended up chasing him down the tunnel.
“I asked him if I could have his shirt and he said ‘yes’. I then went to walk off but he called me back and asked if he could have my shirt.
“I said ‘What?’ and I didn’t want to disrespect him by putting his shirt on the floor so I held his between my knees while taking mine off. After the match, we then went into the changing rooms to get them signed.
“It was all a bit mad really. I played in front of 40,000 people and was used to crowds of 4,000 or even 30 with Armthorpe.
“It was a shock to the system and a bit daunting at first but, once a game starts, you tend to forget about the crowd and focus on your job. Playing at Chelsea doesn’t happen to everyone, let alone going in front there and we were a bit unlucky to be honest.
“I’d love to get in tomorrow’s third round draw and go somewhere like that again.”
Rankine is one of eight City players to have reached the Cup’s third round with Richard Pacquette, Chris Carruthers and Kevin Gall having all made it a stage further as well.
Former Havant and Waterlooville striker Pacquette, of course, famously scored at Liverpool in a 5-2 thriller two seasons ago, while Gall also took on Anfield’s finest during a 2-0 defeat for Yeovil in 2004.
In the same year, Carruthers marked Cristiano Ronaldo during Northampton’s 3-0 fourth round home defeat to Manchester United.
Gall and Carruthers, in fact, have reached the third round or beyond in three different seasons.
In 2002, Gall was a member of the Bristol Rovers side that pulled off a third round Cup shock at then Premier League outfit Derby County.
After the Liverpool defeat, he helped Yeovil beat Rotherham 3-0 in round three a year later before a 3-2 exit at the hands of Charlton.
As well as taking on the Red Devils, Carruthers was part of the Bristol Rovers team who reached the fourth round in 2007 when they bowed out 1-0 to Derby and the following season he came off the bench as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with top-flight Fulham but then remained on the bench as the Pirates marched on to the quarter-finals.
In 2006, Alex Lawless helped League Two Torquay hold Premier League Birmingham to a 0-0 third round draw before losing the replay at St Andrews and last season he scored a goal in front of the TV cameras during a 4-3 defeat to Derby.
The Pride Park club also accounted for Michael Ingham’s Wrexham during the one appearance City’s goalkeeper has made in the third round.
Andy Ferrell has also lost twice at the same stage to Bristol Rovers, while a Hereford player in 2007 and for Kidderminster against Coventry earlier this year.
Finally, non-contract signing Tyrone Berry’s sole third round outing was a happy one as he helped Crystal Palace to overcome Northampton 4-1 nearly four years ago.
Striking ace muscles in on leader
MICHAEL Rankine is not just targeting an FA Cup third round place, he is also closing the gap on Press Player of the Year leader Richard Brodie.
The former Rushden forward is now just four points behind Brodie after picking up a man-of-the-match award for his performance during the 1-0 win at Wimbledon last weekend.
That display earned him a maximum three points with Chris Carruthers (two) and Luke Graham (one) also recognised for their efforts as our second and third-highest rated players respectively.
Centre-back David McGurk, who has moved up to third in the standings, was our man of the match for Tuesday’s single-goal triumph over Gateshead with Rankine picking up another two points and Carruthers one.
Rankine is in pole position in the November Player of the Month standings, having received the two bonus points on offer to the player who received the most online man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website after the Wimbledon trip. That honour went to James Meredith for the Gateshead game.
To be in with a chance of presenting the November Player of the Month with his prize on the pitch at a City home game, register your man-of-the-match vote by reading our online reports at thepress.co.uk The Press Player of the Year standings: Brodie 21 points, Rankine 17, McGurk 14, Ferrell 12, Purkiss 12, Sangare 12, Ingham 10, Lawless 10, Parslow 7, Gash 6, Mackin 5, Barrett 4, Carruthers 4, Smith 4, Boyes 2, Nelthorpe 2, Graham 1, Meredith 1.
The Press November Player of the Month latest standings: Rankine 11, Brodie 8, McGurk 7, Carruthers 4, Lawless 4, Meredith 3, Parslow 2, Graham 1.
Goals: Brodie 17, Gash 5, Rankine 5, Pacquette 2, Sangare 2, Smith 2, Barrett 1, Ferrell 1, Lawless 1.
Assists: Brodie 5, Ferrell 4, Lawless 4, Smith 4, Meredith 3, Purkiss 3, Rankine 3, Sangare 2, Parslow 2, Barrett 1, Carruthers 1, Gash 1, McGurk 1, Nelthorpe 1.
Bad boys: Ferrell 6 yellow cards; Brodie 5 yellow cards; Barrett 4 yellow cards; Meredith 1 red card, 2 yellow; Mackin, McGurk both 3 yellow cards; Carruthers, Lawless, Rankine, Smith all 2 yellow cards; Pacquette 1 red card; Gash, Ingham, Nelthorpe, Parslow, Sangare all 1 yellow.