United are at the SkyEX Community Stadium on Sunday to face Hayes & Yeading United in a televised FA Cup first round tie.
Manager Chris Beech spoke to us about what will be a very tough game.
“I’m disappointed for Hayes and for us that supporters can’t go, because it’s always nice to see the kids with the tin foil FA Cups and to feel the atmosphere,” he said. “I suppose we’re used to having no fans because of the way it’s been for us, but it might be a bit stranger for them because they’ve been able to play in front of people up to now.
“That will make it feel slightly different from their point of view. The FA Cup is all about sharing and connecting, and it’s good that we have the cameras there so at least the fans can get to watch, albeit from a distance and remotely.
“It is just a huge shame because it’s the people in the stands who help to create the added energy and who sometimes affect decisions and reactions with the way they back their teams.
"We’ve had a couple of sendings off that might not have happened, and we had one last week where both players should have been sent off, but the only reaction is from us on the bench.
“The fourth official tells us to sit back down, so it would be good if supporters were there to help us with those decisions.”
“The other thing to consider is that the build up to the game this weekend has been so different to how it could have been,” he continued. “It would have been great to see both sets of supporters ahead of the game, or see interviews with groundsmen and volunteers at the lower league clubs.
“Then you get those kids with the FA Cups that always look so great, but it's just a game in an empty stadium now, which is a real shame for everybody.
“It is good that we’ll be on the BBC so both sets of fans can watch the game. We’re thankful for any media coverage we get at the moment because that’s the only way for fans to see what we’re doing.
“We know we’ll have plenty of people watching so it’s a chance for the players to do well, but it’s the same for the Hayes players who want another opportunity in football at a higher level. They’ll see this game as a chance to impress, so they’ll be right at it.”
As for the magic of the competition he told us: “When I was growing up the FA Cup final was a real event, you used to get up and watch the build-up during the entire day leading up to the game. And that was from the hotel, on the bus, everything.
“It’s changed now but it’s still a massive competition. It’s a shame the Premier League play different teams because of the finances involved in their league, but I still think it’s a massive competition. It was good to me as a player, I managed to get a couple of goals against Derby in the fifth round.
“It felt brilliant, they’re great experiences, and I’ve had the same as a coach. Out of the six seasons when I was with Keith Hill we got to the fifth round, and we played Tottenham. We drew with them at home and we were drawing with them at half time at Wembley.
“For one-and-a-half games we had Harry Kane on the back foot, but he then showed us why he’s an international striker. For four out of the other seasons we got to the fourth round, and again that was great in terms of experiences that you take away.”
Looking ahead to the game itself, we wondered what sort of encounter he expected it to be.
“The pitch is very good and they actually do a lot of tweeting about how good it looks,” he told us. “They’ve got some experience and good energy and what we have to bear in mind is that if they go out of the competition they don’t get another game for a while, so what an incentive that is.
“I know that would be a massive motivation for me if it was us. They know they can’t play in the league, but they also know if they beat us they’ll be able to play in round two. I’m more than aware of the fact that will be a big part in their build-up.
“They’ll see it as a massive opportunity so we’ve got to make sure we take nothing for granted. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing good things in a good way. That’s what can enhance and change your future careers - if you conrinualy do things properly.
“We’ll get different questions asked against us on Sunday because we aren’t playing league opponents. They’ll be very organised and they’ll have some lads in there who will really want to make a difference.
“I’ve spoken to Sanmi Odelusi, who I knew when he came on-loan from Bolton to Rochdale, and he tells me he’s a sitting midfielder now, so I’ll be interested to see that.”
“I don’t think there is a gulf in class between the two teams,” he insisted. “There will be a lot of players at Hayes who have been unfortunate at some of the big London clubs.
“The lack of fans has brought some real freak results about in the Premier League so it will be interesting. They’ll be at their best for the game and we’ll have to match that. They’ve only lost one game this season and that tells you they have a lot about them.
“Whoever plays for us will need to understand that the team they’re facing wants the win and they’ll work hard to get it. We may make some changes, but we might not.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, you’ve got to respect them and we’ll do that on Sunday. We’ll look to implement our style of play and cause problems. We’ll want to see the same traits that we've been seeing in terms of hard work and honesty, because it’s important.
“Hayes are the same, they work ever so hard. They have players enjoying good scoring runs and defenders who want to keep the opposition out. It’ll be another test for both teams.”
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