By Tony Leighton
Notts County's Ivorian striker Francois Zoko is hoping for first season syndrome to kick in at his second English club as the Magpies prepare to face Sheffield United in Round 2 of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Wednesday evening.
Zoko had never played in England until signing for npower League 1 club Carlisle United from Belgian side Ostend in August 2010, but just eight months after his arrival at Brunton Park he hit the Wembley jackpot as part of the Cumbrians' team that beat Brentford in the Trophy final.
The former Under-23 international switched to Meadow Lane in August and, after hitting four goals in his first nine League starts, he would love to put himself back on the road to Wembley by helping the Magpies hand the Blades a Trophy beating.
Having warmed up for the task with a goal against his old club Carlisle in Saturday's 4-0 League win at Brunton Park, Zoko told football-league.co.uk: "Going back to Wembley would be a great thrill after my first experience there.
"When I came to England I never dreamed that I might play at Wembley, I just wanted to be a success at Carlisle and to help the club do well. It was only after we had won our first two or three Johnstone's Paint Trophy matches that I thought, 'maybe it's possible that we can reach the final and I can play at Wembley.'
"Playing in the final was a wonderful experience, one of the best days of my career, and it would be so good to get another opportunity to play at Wembley. But we cannot think any further ahead than a very difficult game against Sheffield United."
Having helped County gain a hard-earned 1-1 League draw at Bramall Lane just over a fortnight ago, Zoko knows exactly how difficult Wednesday evening's Trophy tie at Meadow Lane will be against a Blades team that are fierce promotion rivals currently lying one point and two places above the Magpies at third in the table.
The 29-year-old striker said: "It was a hard game at Sheffield and it will be the same at our ground. We deserved our point though, and although we lost our next two games we got back our winning form at Carlisle on Saturday.
"I enjoyed going back to my former club. I had good times there and it was nice to get a good reception. It was a fine win, too, so it was a good weekend for me. I felt sorry for Carlisle, but that's football - I was glad to help my new club get three points, and now I want to help get a win that can take us another step towards Wembley."
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