The magic of the FA Cup may have taken a little bit of a knocking in recent years, particularly with the way that top tier teams treat the earlier rounds, but for manager Keith Millen he just has to cast his mind back to the 2016 FA Cup final where his Crystal Palace side, managed by Alan Pardew, took Manchester United to extra time (Jesse Lingard bagged the eventual winner) as a reminder of just how special this competition still is.
“It’s a great competition and the magic of the FA Cup is definitely still there for me,” he said. “I know some of the Premier League teams don’t put their strongest teams out in the early rounds, the ones in European competitions have to prioritise these days, and that’s fair enough.
“The financial gains for Premier League teams don’t come from winning the FA Cup. But I know, having been to the final, what an occasion that is. The build up to it is brilliant, but every round is like that.
“The further you go, the more excitement there is from the fans, and the more they look forward to the draws and seeing who you get. You can’t ignore that, and the history of the FA Cup makes it the best competition in the world for me.
“Being on the bench for the FA Cup final with Palace as their assistant manager was special. The fans were just unbelievable. Not often during a game do I look around at the fans and take in the atmosphere but that day, you just couldn’t help it because of the noise.
“It was a fantastic occasion, unfortunately we lost, but it was a good day. We want those sorts of atmospheres here. I’ve been to games here in the past and I know this crowd can make plenty of noise. Hopefully we will give the fans plenty to cheer about.”
“I haven’t been to a home game here yet but I know the fans will respond if we put on a good performance,” he continued. “Certain things are non-negotiable for fans and they need to see their team giving everything to win the game.
“We have to do that, but I also want us to do that with a bit of quality. That will take a bit more time, but I’m sure we’ve got enough to get a good result on Saturday.
“But, let’s face facts, Saturday is only a good game for us if we perform well and win the game. The pressure is still there because we’ve got Horsham coming to us with nothing to lose and everyone will be expecting us to win.
“It’s a different pressure but we’ve got to embrace that. We’re a football league club and we’ve got to go out onto that pitch and show that we’re a good team with good players whilst also respecting what Horsham have done to get here.
“We can’t be timid or afraid of the occasion, it’s an FA Cup game and we have to embrace it. Every game in the FA Cup has that added excitement because of the history.
“The lads need to understand that they could go out there and make their own little bit of history. It’s our next game so we’ll go for it and enjoy it, and hopefully get the right result.
“It doesn’t matter what cup it is, if you’re in it you want to get to the next stage. Winning football matches breeds confidence and that’s the way we need to see it, as an opportunity to give ourselves a lift and win our way through to the next round.
“It’s a great chance for us to try to release a little bit of the stress and tensions that are around the place, but we can’t just take it for granted that will be the case. You have to understand that you must earn the right to play and there is no way that we will underestimate anyone we play, Horsham included.
“You just can’t do that. If you do, you’re in trouble, so it’s a huge game in terms of seeing that the players understand that it has to be done in the right way from the minute we kick off.”
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