"It should be a memorable afternoon of cup football"
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to a very exciting FA Cup game against Newcastle United. We know we are taking on a massive club who are well placed to achieve their number one priority of promotion to the Premier League. But I am sure they will also want to have a decent FA Cup run and, backed by their magnificent fans, it sets up what should be a memorable afternoon of cup football.
We started the week with a terrific win at Rochdale but unfortunately we were unable to follow that up on Tuesday when our Checkatrade Trophy quarter final was called off. It was a frustrating evening for everyone. We are in good form and full of confidence and wanted the game on, but it is impossible to argue with the referee’s decision; the pitch was rock hard and unplayable so he made the right call in terms of player safety. Obviously my first concern was the players but I have every sympathy with fans who had bought tickets and come to the game, especially those who had travelled down from Bradford.
That rearranged game will now take place next Tuesday but obviously for now all of our attention will be on today’s match. Last season we were very successful in switching between the three competitions we were involved in: the League, the FA Cup and the Trophy. That’s not as straightforward as it sounds because you are changing personnel for each match and you prepare slightly differently for knockout games than league matches. I have seen plenty of teams get sidetracked by cup runs and lose sight of their main objective.
I think we have got the balance right here and over the last two years we have really enjoyed the cup runs and they have been a massive positive for us. They breed confidence and belief and there is nothing like winning a game in front of a full house to add a new buzz around the dressing room. The win over Swansea in the third round last year was a fantastic day for everybody and I know gave us impetus and momentum at a key stage of the season.
However, we know we are facing the best team we have played since I came here and we remain very much the underdogs. But someone is going to make headlines today, so why not Oxford United?
We will have Toni Martinez involved for the first time after he signed on loan from West Ham earlier in the week. Toni has scored goals wherever he has been and has a bright future ahead of him and I think that the fact he is with us speaks volumes for Oxford’s reputation as a club where we do things the right way and help nurture good young players. Our squad is full of precisely that: talented young players who are improving all the time. Today they get to hear the Oxford crowd in full voice, supporting, encouraging and hopefully sharing another fantastic day.