FA Cup tie a family affair for Luton Town’s former Norwich City youth goalkeeper Mark Tyler
Luton’s Norwich-born keeper Mark Tyler will fulfil a lifetime ambition when he faces his boyhood club in the FA Cup fourth round at Carrow Road.
Tyler is poised to be the Hatters’ last line of defence next week as the Conference promotion hopefuls bid to pull off the shock of the round. The former Peterborough custodian spent his early teens as part of the Norwich youth set-up before moving onto London Road, where he made more than 400 league appearances. The 35-year-old admitted sourcing tickets for family and friends is his main concern with Luton’s support already snapping up their entire 4,000 away allocation.
“I probably need a whole stand,” he said. “It will be a special occasion and its really going back to where it all began when I was nine and all that hard work I put in to have a career. I would love it to have worked out at Norwich, but it will be a great day for the whole family. I’ve been a substitute at Carrow Road when I went on loan to Hull City and we played Norwich. My younger brother has played there for the school and my older brother I think for Cambridge so I am the only one who hasn’t played on the pitch.
“The draw was quite scary. In the previous round I thought it would be nice for me to play Peterborough and they drew Norwich so then after Norwich got through I thought it would be nice to get them. I had literally just turned over the television on the Sunday afternoon and Norwich had already come out. Then all of a sudden it was ball 31, which was us, and I was jumping up and down.”
Tyler revealed he got the Norwich bug in his formative years.
“My Mum and Dad used to take me up to Norwich and I would stand behind the goal on a milk crate and watch Bryan Gunn. It was brilliant,” he said. “We used to go to every home game and then when I started playing football at a young age I got spotted by Kit Carson so I was at Norwich until 15. We used to go away on tours and train and it started from there.
“It was a little bit frustrating back then. I used to go up to train and stand in goal because it was long before the days when you might have had a proper goalkeeping coach. I spoke to Kit, had a few trials, one at Cambridge and one at Peterborough and they liked me quite a lot. I played a few games for them and they signed me up on associate schoolboy forms.”
Tyler is delighted to see Norwich back in the big time but the Luton number one warns Chris Hughton’s Premier League stars not to underestimate the Hatters after they dumped Championship Wolves out in the previous round.
“When they were in League One I’m sure the fans were thinking what is happening here but Norwich is a big club,” he said. “Paul Lambert took them up and then Chris has took over and done a marvellous job. They are back where they belong. They have some excellent players, but the FA Cup is a special competition. We had a game plan against Wolves which worked and we were quietly confident.
“Obviously Norwich have to come and score the goals. The onus is on them to make sure they don’t slip up. We have nothing to lose. That is unusual for us because nine times out of 10 in our league everyone wants to beat us. We’ll be underdogs and hopefully we can spring a surprise.”
Tyler insists Luton will enjoy their fairytale day out, but admitted promotion back to the Football League remains the priority for Paul Buckle’s outfit after recent near misses.
“The Conference is a hard league,” he said. “The first year here I lost in the semis of the play-offs and the last two seasons in the final of the play-offs, so that has been a bit gutting. There is a lot of ex-league clubs now. Ebbsfleet and Barrow are part-time but I would say 75% are full-time and there are clubs spending a bit of money. With Fleetwood and Crawley running away with it the last two years I think it will be much closer this time around and we are right in the mix.”