BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
KRIS RENTON lined up against Gareth Bale at the age of 16 but readily admits he considered his days of crossing swords with star names long gone.
So, the Cowdenbeath striker is pinching himself at the prospect of facing a Rangers side including English Premier League goal machine Jermain Defoe and managed by Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard
Renton, 28, retains a place in the Norwich record books as the youngest player ever to start a match for the Canaries, in a 3-0 defeat against Burnley in the 2006/07 campaign.
During that season he also entered the fray as a substitute against a Southampton side boasting a teenage Bale, Kenwyne Jones
“I was lucky enough to play against some really good players when I was down in England,” said Renton. “The best known would probably be Gareth Bale.
“I’ll admit that I was starstruck a couple of times – so let’s hope that doesn’t happen against Rangers!
“You just can’t let that affect the way you play, and I’m sure our younger players will be fine.
“It’s always fantastic to test yourself against the best and that’ll be the case tonight. We are all desperate to see how we measure up against guys like Defoe, [Steven] Davis; really top players.”
Renton returned to Scotland in 2010 due to a combination of homesickness and failing to cement a regular place at Carrow Road and proceeded to spend six years in the Junior ranks with Musselburgh, Bonnyrigg Rose
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“When I left Norwich and went to Junior football, I was there for a good few years and accepted that I would never get the chance to play against players like this ever again,” continued Renton.
“I am pinching myself that this opportunity has come. I can’t believe it has happened for us.
“It’s something that I will probably appreciate a lot more than when I was 16 and you think everything will always be smooth.”
While Renton is adamant Cowden ‘believe we can cause anyone problems’, he acknowledges that the Fifers are overwhelming underdogs charged with masterminded one of the biggest shocks in Scottish Cup history.
However, he reckons the X-factor of Central Park, following a flurry of snow and with famously modest facilities, should not be underestimated.
“Central Park can only be an advantage for us,” added Renton. “Even teams in our own league don’t like coming to Central Park, so who knows what Rangers are thinking!
“We need every little factor like that to give us a boost, a little extra confidence and just maybe they’ll turn up, not fancy it and have an off-day.”