DAVE Mehmet played for Millwall's first team just 24 hours after winning the FA Youth Cup in 1979.
His head was a little hazy after the celebrations of the night before, but, aged just 18, he wasn't about to complain.
“We all went out celebrating because I wasn’t expecting to play the next day,” he said.
“But they wanted me to and I wasn’t going to say no! That was the only time I ever had a drink before a game.”
Mehmet, the former Lions midfielder, will return to The Den this weekend for the club’s annual Dockers Day event.
He’ll be joined by his former teammates – among them Phil Coleman, Paul Roberts and Tony Kinsella – as the club commemorates that cup-winning side of 36 years ago.
Mehmet played a key role in the final against Manchester City, his free-kick leading to an own goal before Coleman scored the second in a 2-0 success.
“I played in the youth cup final on the Monday and then for the first team the following night, on the last day of the season,” he added.
“The Den was packed out for the final – we couldn’t believe it – but the following night there were only 4,000 there to see the first team against Preston.
“I played two games in two days a lot of the time. Players these days would moan about it but I was a young and that’s what I wanted to do. I’d never not want to play.
“That youth team had a bit of everything – we could play teams off the park or roll up our sleeves and nick a result. Everything about the squad – there were 18 or 19 of us – was spot on and it was a joy to play in.
“We never knew when to give up or when to accept defeat, no matter what the score was. We were one of those teams.”
Mehmet picks out a meeting with Brian Clough as one of the highlights of the Lions’ cup run.
“It was the quarter final,” he explained. “We’d drawn 3-3 with Nottingham Forest at home after being 3-0 up and we were playing up at their ground.
“In those days you were only allowed to make one substitution but we had a couple of injuries so we had to play for most of the second half with ten men.
“Peter Gleasure, the goalkeeper, saved us that night – he made every kind of save you could think of. He was just unbelievable. Forest were a good side – similar to us with a bit of everything – but we came out on top.
“Clough was their manager at the time and came into our changing room afterwards to congratulate us. That was a high point.
“Looking back, the semi-final against Everton and the final against Manchester City were probably the two easiest games we had!”
Many of the Lions’ young cubs went on to feature regularly for the senior side – Mehmet included.
“15 or so of those players ended up playing for the first team,” he added. “Almost everyone went professional.
“In fact there were probably too many of us playing at the same time – we were thrown in at the deep end and that did affect a few of the players.
“The club was in the old Second Division so going away to the likes of Chesterfield on a Tuesday night was difficult for a young team – the opposition were all 6ft4, experienced players who wanted to give you a battering.
“We only had two or three experienced players at the time. Barry Kitchener was still there and he was colossal for all of the young kids, but there weren’t many like him around.
“That’s probably why a few members of the youth cup team didn’t stay for too long at Millwall.”
Mehmet left The Den in 1981 to link up with former manager Gordon Jago at the Tampa Bay Rowdies – but later returned for a second spell between 1986 and 1988.
“Tampa Bay had come in for me two or three times,” he said. “I didn’t want to go, to be honest, because I didn’t think America would be the right thing for my career but Millwall didn’t have any money.
“I wouldn’t say they pressured me into going but it was getting like that. They just needed the money. I only stayed out there for a year because it wasn’t for me and I knew that when I went.
“But they were throwing so much money at me and Millwall that it got to the stage where we couldn’t turn it down. It was going on for a few months.
“When I came back from America, Kitchener was caretaker manager and he wanted to re-sign me – but the club didn’t have the money. I ended up going to Charlton but Millwall has always been my club and I grew up as a supporter.”
Mehmet, who was born in Camberwell but has now moved out to Kent, still watches Millwall when he can – and keeps a close eye on the youth set-up.
“Times are hard,” he said. “I worked at the academy for about nine years so I know how difficult it is, but I don’t know what’s happened to the recruitment side of things.
“There used to be loads of youngsters coming through. If you looked at the Premier League seven or eight years ago, you’d see a load of players with Millwall connections.
“But you don’t see that anymore and that’s disappointing from a fan’s point of view. It’s hard to compete with other teams at the moment but somehow they’ve got to, and in the past Millwall has survived thanks to its youth set-up.”