Boss happy to be the underdog for once
Town boss Paul Buckle is delighted that the pressure will be off his side for once when they face Wolves in the FA Cup third round at Kenilworth Road.
With a fourth round spot up for grabs, stakes come none higher than a result on Saturday afternoon and with a sell-out crowd expected to flood into Kenilworth Road a magnificent spectacle is promised.
At Thursday’s press conference Buckle has spoke of his players’ right to play in this level of the competition but emphasises the entirety of the pressure is on the visitors.
“The players have done very well in the FA Cup and have earned the right to play in the third round,” said the Town boss,.
“It’s a massive game for all of us, it’s certainly one we look forward too because normally we are the favourites in every game we go into with pressure on the players and this time the pressure will be on Wolves.”
With a sell out 9,500 crowd expected to pack out a rapturous Kenilworth Road for the visit of their Championship counterparts, Buckle is hoping the home atmospheric advantage could help his side pull off a dream result.
“I've seen it once before when we played Wrexham in the play-offs and it was an unbelievable atmosphere and it really can count at home,” said the manager. “One thing we have to do is start well and give our fans hope that we can pull something off but it’s going to be a wonderful occasion and we need to play our part in it.”
Wolves head into the game on the back of a three game winless run which has seen them concede eight times and only find the net once.
But despite the opposition's poor run in form, Buckle insists he is focusing on his own side rather than his midland opponents. “I'd rather not comment on Wolves and be disrespectful to their club and manager,” said Buckle, who will be locking horns with Wolves for the first time in his managerial career.
“It's a great club, great tradition and I'm really looking forward to a great encounter where we can show what we're about. We have been a little bit stop, start this season no more than the last time out, we let ourselves down so we want to go out and have a real go and hopefully with the pressure off we can do that.”
Murmurs of a cup upset have rung around the club in recent weeks as they see their visitors falter in the league and Buckle has his eyes firmly set on a tough afternoon for Stale Solbakken's Wolves as they head to Bedfordshire amidst a struggling season.
“They won't be relishing coming to play lower opposition, it's tough,” Buckle said. “I've been in that situation many times before and I've been in that situation at times this season and you have to guard against it. You hope your players recognise its going to be a tough game and they don't take any liberties but we will have to play to our very best and they will have to have an off day.
“We have got a lot about us, the team will have freshness because it has to change because we've got people like Scott Neilson and Simon Ainge who can't play and a couple of injuries as well so all said and done it's going to be a great occasion and one we can look forward too.”
With an enormous amount of respect for the Town's opposition shown by the managerial staff Buckle believes that despite their ambitions of a historic result they have acknowledged they will need to be at their best to compete.
He continued: “I think I've done the right thing is paying respect to Wolves and their manager and their team, the last thing we can do is think they're on a poor run its going to be easy for us it's not.
“There's a gulf in players, there's a gulf in budgets, there's a gulf in where we are and where they are. We know all of them things and we've got to make sure we play to our very best levels for 90-plus minutes.
“You know when you play higher opposition if you give them a chance normally they will take it because they have got some real class players in their team and I'm sure their manager will be looking to use this to turn their fortunes around.”
Together with the Town, Macclesfield, Mansfield and Hastings all face tough ties in a bid to reach the fourth round but Buckle is hoping his side does make it through.
“It could be us, of course we're hoping for that and what will give the players strength is the fact it's happened before in the FA Cup and ideally we'd like to be in the fourth round,” Buckle said.
“It won't be enough just to want it, we have to know how to do it, we've had two days now to work on how we’re going to stop them and how we're going to cause them problems ourselves.
“I've been in the fourth round a couple of times with Torquay. In the last year we played Aston Villa and at Bristol Rovers we got through to the third round so it's nice I said before it’s no good putting weakened teams in any cups or the Trophy or to devalue anything.
“We know that everything is based around us being promoted this year of course, it’s been like that for the last four seasons for Luton. At the same time I'm hoping this can really kick-start us and push us further up the league.”
With many of the elite sides in the competition using the FA Cup in recent years to rotate their squads to accommodate other domestic and European ambitions, many have said of the Cup no longer has the same attraction it did decades ago.
But Buckle is adamant his players still lust for the FA Cup tale and their love for the oldest domestic cup competition in the world is never diminishing.
“It's certainly still has the appeal to us,” Buckle responded. “Obviously there's something special happening and that will be the case between now and Saturday.
“The players will be doing papers, press, TV and then when they come to Kenilworth Road Saturday and see it full they will really know they're in for a game and hopefully Wolves will feel the same.”
With primary focus for the Hatters on the forthcoming cup clash, Buckle did not want to be drawn into any speculation surrounding transfer activity. However, yesterday (Thursday) the Town officially ended their pursuit of AFC Wimbledon striker Christian Jolley, who will not be making a move to Kenilworth Road after the club withdrew its interest in the player.
Meanwhile, midfielder Andre Boucaud will return to Kenilworth Road on Monday from Notts County. The 28-year-old has spent the first half of the season on loan at Meadow Lane.