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11:43am Saturday 15th May 2010 in York City v Oxford United - Wembley play-off final
Ever since his return for a second spell at Bootham Crescent two years ago, Ingham has insisted on wearing the number 24 on his back despite being unshakeable as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Until now, the former Northern Ireland international has been reluctant to reveal the reason behind his choice of squad number due to its sensitive nature but he feels the appropriate time has come to honour the memory of his friend Ronan Gilmour in front of a nationwide audience.
“We had a great football team at school and I wear 24 because of a good friend of mine – Ronan Gilmour – who was the best player in that side,” Ingham said. “He didn’t make it across the water like I did because he was too small but we kept in contact and he was never jealous.
“Sadly, he had a bit of an illness and passed away at the age of 24. The shirt is a little tribute from me to show that I will never forget him.
“Tomorrow’s final is obviously live on TV and it would mean a lot to lift the cup, especially wearing the squad number I do. That would represent a double victory for me and would be very emotional. It would be a fitting tribute.”
Centre-back McGurk has since returned to the side but Ingham has remained in the role and admitted the honour ranks alongside his international caps.
He said: “The captaincy has been brilliant. I don’t feel my form has changed as a result but it’s one of the greatest honours I have been given in the game.
“Some fans have told me there haven’t been many goalkeepers made captain here, so I put the armband right up there with my three international caps, especially when I lead the lads out if selected tomorrow. If we win the game, it would be one of the best days of my life.”
Neutral observers feel the key to success for City might be keeping Oxford’s 28-goal leading marksman James Constable off the scoresheet.
But Constable is yet to find the net against Ingham in four matches and the City ’keeper believes that record could be eating away at the former Shrewsbury striker.
“It might play on his mind,” Ingham said. “But he’s up there as one of the best strikers in the league if you look at his goal record.
“We will be wary of him but I would back our centre-halves Luke Graham and David McGurk against anybody and, if they are on their game, he will struggle to score. From a goalkeeper’s point of view, he likes to catch you unaware with his shots and you have to keep on your toes against him.”
Ingham will also go into the match on the back of consecutive clean sheets against the division’s top scorers and semi-final opponents Luton Town and he has every faith in his back four under the arch, adding: “I was delighted with the defensive performances over the two legs against Luton but, as a back four and ’keeper, we have felt confident of keeping clean sheets in every game this season.
“I think it will need to be a wonder goal or a mistake if Oxford are going to score against us and the lads at the back have made my job easy this season. You can’t knock Richard Brodie for what he’s done this season and he deserves all the pats on the back he gets but, as a defence, we have niggled away and kept 27 clean sheets.
“If Brodes had not got all the goals, the credit would go to the lads at the back. They are four honest lads with a great work ethic.
“We communicate with each other and get on well, which is the main reason for all the clean sheets.”
While dreaming of a victory tomorrow, Ingham was also happy to sign a new contract at Bootham Crescent before knowing which division the club would be plying their trade in next season despite previously admitting he was concerned about the impact playing non-League football was having on his international career.
Ingham won his last cap in February 2007 against Wales and he said: “As anybody who comes to watch me at York knows, I am playing with a smile on my face and that means a lot to me.
“I am getting to the stage in my career where I feel like I’m at the top of my game. Steve Davis, who plays for Rangers, can’t believe I’m not in the squad but, whereas, I was desperate to get back into the Football League to try to catch the attention of the Northern Ireland scouts, I’m quite relaxed about it now.
“I’ve got nothing to prove and know I’m playing well but they haven’t bothered to get their backsides down here to watch me so, if the result doesn’t go our way at Wembley, it wouldn’t change my feelings about playing for York.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else. We’ve had a great season, my wife is settled in the city and I love it here.”