RHYS IS NOT ON HIS OWEN

24/01/12. John Devlin. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Press conference pre-Celtic. Rhys Bennett with cup.
24/01/12. John Devlin. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Press conference pre-Celtic. Rhys Bennett with cup.
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uRHYS Bennett has moved from under his Bolton boss’ watchful gaze, to the gaffer’s own back yard.

Wanderers chief Owen Coyle used to be based a short drive from Hampden Park, on the south side of Glasgow, and Bennett’s career progression from Trotters youngster to Hampden has taken him away from Coyle, but the connections still remain.

“I’ve not heard from the manager this week, but I’ve had messages up from him since we extended my deal,” explained Bennett.

“He’s a busy man running things at Bolton, but I’m sure if he has any tips for playing at Hampden he’ll be pasing them on to me and his old club.

“I’ve never been to Hampden before and heard it’s nice. Obviously it’s an international arena, and the Scottish national team’s stadium so it must be a great place and hopefully we can generate a great atmosphere on Sunday.”

Bennett’s old boss can take a look at his farmed-out defender with the game being screened live on television, as can many of Bennett’s team-mates in the Premier League.

“I still keep in touch with them, they’re friends as well as team-mates.

“We all enjoy seeing each other progress our careers, and I’ve seen a lot of the guys I played with at youth and reserve level progress to the first team recently. That makes me proud, but it’s a mutual thing.

“They look out for my results too, and Bolton’s the first score I check after Falkirk games. It’s great seeing them progress to the big stage but this is the big stage for me too. I believe I have what it takes to play well, I have confidence in my own ability because if I didn’t, why would I bother playing football?

“These are the games you dream of as a child, and as a young player and a person it’s a privilege to be potentially involved in Sunday’s game.”

But it’s not only his ex-team at Bolton who are firm friends with Bennett. He’s struck a chord with hot-shot Farid El Alagui. The pair lived together for a short spell at the beginning of the season, and they’re still in each other’s company more often than not, with Bennett even showing off the meals he’s cooked the 22-goal striker on Twitter.

“I’m round at his, or he’s at mine, it’s safe to say we’re good friends.

“He has had an unbelievable season, and it couldn’t happen to a better person. I am delighted for Farid.”

El Alagui is already a fans’ favourite in the dark blue, a goal on Sunday would add to his love affair with the Bairns’ faithful. But the feeling’s mutual and the Moroccan says he loves being a part of this exciting Bairns team.

“It is easy to be a striker in this team, everything works and everybody works so hard every Saturday, and I just have the last piece to do of the work, and I’m lucky as well with the players around me.

“Of course I want to score on Sunday and do the double over Rangers and Celtic - I can’t possibly say no to that can I? That’s what I want but I need to help the team first and importantly. The team’s work and the tactic we play is more important, but after them, of course, yeah, I’m going to try to score.

“Celtic is a massive club - it has a reputation around the world and Celtic and Rangers are massive. We played them and we beat them and I hope to do the double.”