By Tony Leighton
It was a moment never to be forgotten for a lifetime Birmingham City fan, stepping on to the St Andrew's pitch for the first time to play in what was the first ever Champions League tie at the Sky Bet Championship club's ground.
So it was no wonder that on Wednesday night, after helping the Blues women's team beat Russian side Zorky 5-2 to complete an aggregate 7-2 win that took them into the quarter-finals for the first time in the club's history, there was a tear of joy on the face of Birmingham-born England winger Karen Carney.
The 88-times capped international was a European champion with Arsenal in 2007 and last year played in front of over 70,000 at Wembley as Great Britain beat Brazil in the Olympic Games.
But, to turn out at St Andrew's, on what was a debut appearance for the women's team, was still extra special said Carney.
The 26-year old winger told football-league.co.uk: "I got a bit emotional before the game, which sounds a bit cheesy, but the occasion really got to me.
"I've been coming to watch Blues since I was a kid and I made my debut for the women's first team when I was 14, so although I went away for a while [to professional American club Chicago Red Stars as well as Arsenal], I've always seen this as my club and it was fantastic to walk out of the tunnel on to the pitch.
"We've progressed so much as a club and getting through to the Champions League quarter-finals, especially here at St Andrew's, is the pinnacle that we've reached so far even though we won the FA Cup last year.
"Things have been going great off the pitch as well. We've become more integrated with the men's club, which is absolutely brilliant for us, and now [manager] Lee Clark's players are supporting us as well as us supporting them.
"Before this game we had good luck tweets from the likes of Chris Burke and even some of the lads that have moved on, like Jack Butland who went to Stoke City and Nathan Redmond who's at Norwich now.
"We've been made to feel part of the Birmingham City family and we're grateful that we've had the chance to play at St Andrew's. Hopefully we'll get another opportunity in the future, perhaps in the Champions League quarter-final."
Carney herself will be back at St Andrew's before March's quarter-final, not only giving her backing to the first-team in the Sky Bet Championship but also passing comment on them through her occasional match-day coverage on the club's website.
"I've done a few commentaries for bcfc.com," said Carney. "It's good fun and it gives me a different perspective on watching the team. They're in the bottom half of the table at the moment, but I'm confident that they'll climb higher.
"They were in the Europa League a couple of seasons ago after winning the League Cup, but that seems a long time ago now. Unlike the girls they've never played in the Champions League, but hopefully they'll get there one day."
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