The Britons living out their Superbowl dreams

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The Independent Online

As a 10-year-old schoolboy in Greenock, like most boys growing up in the west of Scotland, Lawrence Tynes dreamt that one day he would walk out in front of a packed football stadium and have the chance to bring joy to thousands with one swing of his right boot.

Tomorrow night Lawrence's dream will come true, but he won't be playing at Parkhead in the green and white hoops of his beloved Celtic FC, nor will he be playing what the Americans refer to as soccer.

For Lawrence Tynes will take to the field of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, in the blue and white of the New York Giants. Playing alongside him will be Ositadinma Osi Umenyiora, a formidable pass-rushing defensive end, who was born in London of Nigerian parentage, and spent the first seven years of his life in Golders Green.

Together they are expected to be the first British-born players to take to the field in American football's showcase event, the Superbowl.

And the pair have played no small part in getting the Giants to the final match of the season. Tynes' 47-yard field goal in the dying minutes of his side's championship game against the Green Bay Packers sent the Giants into tomorrow's Superbowl XLII showdown against the New England Patriots.

Umenyiora has played down his British roots as little more than an accident of geography, but Tynes' journey to being within touching distance of the holy grail of American football is very different from that taken by his team-mates. The 29-year-old was born in Port Glasgow, a small shipbuilding town to the west of Glasgow that has seen better days. He also spent time as a child in remote Campbeltown, on the end of the Mull of Kintyre peninsula, where his father Larry, a US Navy Seal, was stationed.

He left Scotland for the US when he was 10 and, while he may have lost his Scottish accent, it was there his love of football was born, albeit the play-with-your-feet Scottish version as opposed to the use-your-hands American one. He explained recently: "I remember going to Parkhead to watch Celtic and I loved it".

After the move to Florida, and his switch to American Football, things didn't immediately fall into place for Tynes. First his brother Mark was sentenced to 27 years for drugs trafficking. Then his Scottish mother, Maggie-Ann, suffered health problems, his parents divorced and his wife endured a difficult pregnancy.

On the field things haven't always gone perfectly for Tynes either. He started his career in university football with Troy State, in Alabama, then moved home through the NFL Europe league to the Scottish Claymores, before spending time in the wilderness of the Canadian league with the Ottawa Renegades. His NFL break came with the Kansas City Chiefs. After three years there, the last a below-par showing, he was traded to the New York Giants in 2007.

Things there started well when he quickly became the Giants' first-choice kicker. However, his form dipped and recently he was subject to a cutting review from the NFL commentator Ralph Vacchiano, who said: "Lawrence Tynes sucks." That particular phrase was no doubt repeated by a few Giants fans against the Green Bay Packers when Tynes missed two crucial field goals that would have sent the Giants to the Superbowl, but it was third time lucky in overtime when he sent the kick over to give the Giants a 23-20 victory. "I screwed up twice," he admitted. "Thank God we got another opportunity."