Graham Westley says that there needs to be a balance between passion and the balance sheet when it comes to the FA Cup, but he is looking forward to what he describes as a ‘brilliant competition’.
The former Gillingham player comes up against his former employers this weekend and up against a former team-mate in Martin Allen, with who he shared a number of years coming up through the ranks at Queens Park Rangers.
Speaking at his pre-match press briefing, the gaffer said the weekend would be like playing the game with a lottery ticket in hand, due to the potential riches available with the right draw in the third round of the competition.
“You know as a manager, that in the FA Cup, it is a financial as well as a footballing issue,” said the 44-year-old. “You are playing with a lottery ticket in your hand and that you could put a £1m in the Club’s bank account by winning it and getting the right draw in the next round. You are playing a game of high stakes and they are always situations I relish. I like the added pressure that that brings; I like the incentive that is there for the football club and I like being able to deliver that.
“The importance of the FA Cup shouldn’t be understated. It is a brilliant competition; you can achieve such memorable things in it. In football terms it is Disneyland – it’s the place where magic happens. I love it, for that reason, but there is the financial aspect to. The money and magic are both involved – you can’t pretend that they are not. And if you forget the magic is there, you miss the point. If you don’t play football for the sake of the football and the passion and the magic of the Cup then you don’t get it. It is about having a balance and I am sure it will be awesome out there on Saturday.
“The ground will be electric. The fans against Notts County found their fighting spirit again. They were protective of Lairdy. They were angry at what happened – they showed their gratitude for the passion the players are playing with and I got this sense of the Club coming together and Saturday is the first chance to see at home what we saw at Orient last weekend. A thousand fans travelling away to London on a cold, wet November Saturday, when we haven’t been in the best form overall, it was just awesome support. It was a symbol of the fans getting behind the team and Saturday I think will be another turning point in terms of us going on to another level as a Club.”
The glory and the riches, however, are no guarantee to anyone in the competition. And North End face a tough test against the League Two leaders at weekend, a test the manager is certainly not underestimating.
“We will be favourites, and rightly so. We are a good outfit and an improving outfit. Deepdale is a tough place to come to ands us at Deepdale is a tough proposition for anybody – as Huddersfield and Crystal Palace found out.
“I don’t underestimate the challenge. They are at the top of League Two for a reason. They have a system that is awkward to play against. Martin has taken the system that he adopted at Notts County and instilled it in his new group and they have responded well to it. Their early season form has been good, if their recent form has been slightly lesser.
“We know what Swindon and Crawley have done this season and what Stevenage did last year; so we know what promoted sides from League Two can do in League One and we know the gap isn’t that great, but we know what we are capable of doing to sides here at Deepdale and we are going to fancy ourselves.
“I spent Wednesday having a very detailed look at their game against Accrington, seeing where they are at and making sure that we understand how they play. As a team we will do more detailed analysis and we will go into the game well-prepared.
“They will change their side around; you get information during the week about how teams are preparing and about personnel you know are going to be playing against you and you need to process all of that to make sure you are well-equipped and ready for the game.”
Tickets are just £10 for adults in all coporate areas and £5 for concessions, with tickets on sale now from the Club’s ticket and retail store, over the phone on 0844 856 1966 and online at www.mypne.com. You can also buy them on the day from the cash turnstiles in the Sir Tom Finney Stand and the Alan Kelly Town End – remember, the Invincibles Pavilion is only open to corporate customers and not normal stand spectators.