Latics guest column: Jonathan Jackson

Jonathan Jackson
Jonathan Jackson

THIS weekend sees us travel to Bury in the first round of the FA Cup.

It’s the first time we’ve been in the first-round draw for a long time, and I know there was a lot of interest – from the fans and also inside the club – about whether we’d draw a non-league team or a side we hadn’t played for a while.

You look at teams like FC United, Salford City, Chorley – who were in the initial draw although they didn’t reach the first round – and it would have been interesting to say the least.

As a fan of the club back in our non-league days, the first-round draw – and the third round when we got there – was always one of the highlights of the calendar.

We’ve ended up being paired with Bury, who of course we’ve already played in the Capital One Cup and recently in the league.

They’re a team we know well, it’s another local game, and we’re looking forward to it.

We can forget about the pressures of the league for a while and enjoy the cup, in a competition that has been a bit special for us in recent years.

I remember us being drawn at home against Bury in our first year as a league club, 1978, and it went to a replay.

It was a frosty, November evening, the pitch was really icy, we got beat 4-1, and our lads were struggling to keep their feet for most of the game.

Obviously we’ll be hoping to get a much better result this weekend, and we’ll be going all out to do that because the FA Cup is a priority for us and a competition we’ll always take very seriously.

You speak to Gary Caldwell, and you’ll instantly know it’s a competition he wants to win.

He wants to win every single game we play no matter what the competition, and it’s certainly not a distraction.

It never has been and it never will be.

The size of the away followings we take in the FA Cup will also tell you that.

Look at last season at Bolton, when we were in the middle of a very poor run of results, and we took close to 3,000 fans to the Macron.

The first round of the FA Cup is a special moment, when you watch the teams come out.

It’s the magic, the unknown – not knowing who you might be drawn against in the next round.

Although we’ve played all these fantastic teams at their fantastic grounds, it would be great to go there again in the FA Cup.

We’ve also got a 10-match unbeaten run to defend, and it would be nice to continue our form in the league into a different competition.

We seem to be picking up momentum with every game, gelling more and more as a team every week.

The results suggest that, and it would be good to continue that.

The cup also gives us a chance to perhaps play some first-teamers who haven’t had as much game-time as they’d have liked lately. But, whatever team Gary puts out, it’ll be a strong one capable of winning.

We’ve also got another important cup-tie coming up next Tuesday when we entertain Blackpool in the northern area quarter-final of the JPT.

We all like a trip to Wembley – whether it’s in the FA Cup or the JPT – and we’ll take another all day long if it comes along.

The fans I’ve been speaking to have been telling me how much they’d fancy another trip to Wembley, and we have been taking the JPT very seriously this season.

The rules dictate that you can’t make wholesale changes, and you saw at Crewe in the last round how well we played.

That night was very enjoyable – both the way we played and the away following we took to Crewe.

It was such an entertaining match, and that’s all you can ask for as a fan – that we are entertained by our team, and obviously that you win the game.

It’s a competition we’ve won twice before – the Freight Rover Trophy in 1985 and the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1999 – and we’d dearly love to make it a hat-trick with the JPT this year.

We’ve got a 100 per cent record to defend in the final of this competition, and it’s clearly a competition we have great memories of.

When it was first introduced in the 1980s, it was seen as the main chance for players in the third and fourth divisions to play at Wembley.

Then the play-offs were introduced and the chance to play at Wembley became more common.

For us, of course, it’s a stadium that’s become very familiar in recent years, and a place our fans have got very used to.

It should be another good game on Tuesday, and we’ve set the prices at a record low level to try and get more supporters inside the ground.

We’ve made it attractive for junior supporters, and all of the money from that price range will be going to charity – which is something we hope the public will respond to.

l We always knew this season was going to be a case of taking time to gel together a team of totally new players and play as a team, under a new manager trying to instill his tactics and way of playing.

It was no surprise to see we didn’t completely hit the ground running, but we are seeing partnerships developing on the pitch, players becoming a lot more comfortable with the style of play, and the results are showing the character of the group coming together.

We’re pleased with where we are at the moment, while not taking anything for granted, and we have to make sure we keep our standards as high as possible to make sure we get the points we need to achieve our objectives.

Jonathan Jackson was speaking to Paul Kendrick