IF the FA Trophy quarter-final clash between local rivals Blyth Spartans FC and Gateshead did not have enough riding on it already, then consider the added incentive for twin brothers Stephen and Phil Turnbull, who will emerge from opposite dressing rooms at Croft Park on Saturday.
They’ve fallen out over computer games and squabbled over table tennis matches but when the brothers take to the field on Saturday it will be the first time they have played against each other in a competitive football match.
With a two-legged semi-final and a place at Wembley for the finalists at stake, the sibling rivalry which has yielded many off field battles down the years will never have produced a greater bitterness for one and sweetness for the other.
Almost inseparable throughout their careers, the two midfielders joined Sunderland together as youngsters before they both completed a move to Hartlepool United and then Gateshead, with Stephen making the switch to Croft Park in 2009.
The brothers have recently bought a house together and as soon as the teams were pulled out of the hat, Stephen was quick to draw the battle lines.
He said: “Phil was out so I put tape right through the middle of the house.
“We still had to beat Droylsden that night in the replay but I just knew once we’d drawn Gateshead there was no way we were going to get beat, the lads were really up for it.”
On the team bus, after Blyth’s magnificent 4-0 win over Droylsden which set up the Gateshead tie, Stephen jokingly proclaimed: “I haven’t got a brother” but the 24 year old admits that facing Phil will add further edge to the contest.
He said. “It will be in the back of my mind but it’s important I focus on my own game. Obviously I’ll speak to him before and after the game but during the match if I get a chance to smash him then I will, and I’m sure he would say exactly the same.
“I watch him when I get the chance and likewise he does the same when he’s not playing.
“Gateshead play in the league above but I believe we’ve got what it takes to beat them on the day.
“These are the games you really look forward to.
“With it being at Blyth it will be a much better atmosphere than it would be if it was at their place.
“The crowd is right on top at Croft Park and we need to use this to our advantage.”
Away from the football pitch, the twins confess to being the best of friends but have competed against each other at everything and anything throughout their lives.
Stephen said. “We were playing FIFA football on the Playstation once and I beat him in extra time.
“His response was unbelievable, he started throwing the console about the room in a rage before storming off, I don’t think he spoke to me for a while after that.”
Phil, who is the older twin by one hour, has his own tale of triumph over his brother.
He said. “I beat him at table tennis quite recently and he launched his paddle across the table so I can just imagine what he’ll be like if we win on Saturday.
“It will be a new experience, playing against my brother.
“All the family will be there so it will be a great occasion for all of us.
“With us buying a house together it is going to be unbearable for the loser.”
Phil is no stranger to Croft Park, having completed a loan spell with Spartans back in 2007.
He said: “I know the crowd will be really up for it but there will be a good following from Gateshead and hopefully we’ll make it a good day out for them.”
Having established that Stephen is the superior FIFA player and Phil the more accomplished in a ping-pong contest, the ultimate in bragging rights will lie in wait for whoever comes out on top in the FA Trophy quarter-final tie.
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