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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 11:11 GMT
Peters ready to take centre stage
By Pete Oliver

Mark Peters
Mark Peters' experience helped the U's avoid relegation last season
The FA Cup has a welcome habit of turning the spotlight on some unlikely heroes.

And no-one will deserve his moment on centre stage more than Cambridge United defender Mark Peters when he steps out at Molineux to face Wolves on Saturday.

For Cambridge, one of only three non-league sides left in the competition, to have reached the third round is an impressive achievement.

For Peters to be playing in it is even more remarkable, given the two career-threatening injuries he has overcome to sustain his career to the age of 35.

In April 1996, Peters was playing for Mansfield Town when he shattered his leg in three places.

He told BBC Sport: "I was told in no uncertain terms that I was finished."

The central defender refused to listen, had a metal bar fitted the full length of his shin bone and after 18 months out of action returned to the fray.

"I still get recurring problems with it but it is manageable. It took a lot of time and hard work but it was worth going through it for what I have achieved since," Peters said.

After starting more than 100 league games for the Stags, Peters joined Rushden & Diamonds, where he shared in successive promotions up to League One under Brian Talbot.

With another century of appearances behind him it was on to Leyton Orient for the former Wales Under-21 international, where a loan spell to Aldershot brought his second major setback.

In an FA Cup tie against Canvey Island in November, 2004, Peters ruptured a bone in his big toe. Again his career hung in the balance.

He said: "The surgeon told me to get a camera put inside to see the damage.

I just got my head down and got on with it

Cambridge's Mark Peters
"I could have had surgery on it but it was just too dangerous. I would have been out for six months with no guarantees.

"It was too big a risk so I took a bit of time off and the only reason I ended up at Cambridge was because I used to play alongside Rob Newman at Norwich and Tony Spearing at Peterborough."

With specially fitted boots and a flow of painkillers he joined Newman's patched up side following Cambridge's relegation to the Conference in 2005.

"I just got my head down and got on with it," he said.

Peters became a regular for the U's as they tried to get to grips with non-league football in the aftermath of major financial problems at the Abbey Stadium.

However, Newman lasted little more than 12 months and relegation remained a threat last season following the arrival of Jimmy Quinn as manager.

This season, though, the U's are bouncing back with a promotion challenge going hand-in-hand with a Cup run which is reviving memories of the early 1990s.

Back then, Cambridge twice reached the quarter-finals as part of a burst of success which took them up to Championship level.

Michael Morrison
Peters' young team-mate Michael Morrison has impressed recently

"There have been a lot of tough times at Cambridge but now the club is on the upturn and it's great at my age to be involved as much as I have," added Peters, who is player-coach under Quinn.

"It's been a sad fall from grace but the nice thing for our supporters is that they have seen the tough times and now they are seeing things going the right way with a good mix of players and some that have come through the club's system.

"And it is still a family orientated club with a good base of supporters who support us very well every week."

Around 5,000 are expected to go to Molineux where the experience of Peters will be invaluable.

He will line up against Championship opposition alongside young players such as Michael Morrison, who has interested top flight clubs, and 15 goal top-scorer Scott Rendell.

"We have got some players who can go here and show what we are about and put on a good football display," said Peters.

"There will be an upset somewhere and hopefully we could be part of it. Then who knows who you could get?

"That's the beauty of the cup. There is a carrot there of something bigger and better waiting for you which we can strive for, without being cocky or over confident."

Whatever business you are in, if you are doing your job on a big stage it's got to be special

Mark Peters

That is not Peters' style, having reached the tail end of a career that started in the Manchester City youth system with the likes of Neil Lennon, Steve Lomas, Garry Flitcroft, Ashley Ward and Gerry Taggart.

The big time did not quite beckon as Peters left Maine Road without playing a first-team game. But he still has much to savour and at least one more bumper game to enjoy.

"Whatever business you are in, if you are doing your job on a big stage it's got to be special," he said.

"For people playing in the Conference to then be playing in front of 20,000 will give you a tingle down the spine, and that's what it's all about.

"From the youth team I was in at Manchester City most have played Premier League football. I am really glad for them but I am very proud to be in my 20th year as a professional footballer.

"When I was a boy if somebody had said that I would still be playing at 35 I would have snapped their hand off."

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