Beating Southampton will be like getting to the final, says Wigan Athletic boss Cook
Wigan boss Paul Cook thinks the Latics are being shown too much respect ahead of their FA Cup quarter-final against Southampton on Sunday.
For the third time in six seasons, Wigan have made it through to the last eight and the next obstacle arrives at the DW Stadium on Sunday in the shape of Southampton as the 2013 champions bid to make more club history.
With Wigan having already claimed the scalps of Bournemouth, West Ham and, stunningly, Manchester City, and Southampton struggling in the Premier League, the chances of another upset appear high.
Cook said: “One of my pals texted me yesterday to say, ‘I won’t be able to come across for this one but I’ll get to the semi-final’. And I just looked at the text as if to say, ‘What planet is he on?’
“When you’ve knocked teams out like we have, there is a little bit of that. It’s like people aren’t disrespecting us enough now and respecting Southampton enough.
“In our dressing room we’re fully aware what we’re about to engage with. We’ve had a great cup run. The Bournemouth home game, the draw at Bournemouth was fantastic, the West Ham game was a great game for us, the Man City game purely on the result takes all the limelight.
“And now we go into a game on Sunday where people are actually saying to us it’s a 50-50 game. And as a manager, and a football fan for a long time, I don’t see it as a 50-50 game. I’d love to tell everyone I do, but I don’t see it as that at all.”
Cook feels Southampton’s change of manager this week, with Mark Hughes replacing Mauricio Pellegrino, makes his side’s job harder but the carrot of Wembley dangles tantalising in front of them.
“It’s an unbelievable incentive for everyone,” he said. “For me as a manager, I can honestly say if we were to get through, it would be like getting to Wembley in a cup final. I think that’s the prize for us.
“If we were lucky enough to get through - and we’re under no illusions how difficult that will be - where we are as a club and a team, to go into an FA Cup semi-final and such a great occasion, for me it would be a sense of achievement like we’ve done enough in the FA Cup.
“What will be, will be from there. Certainly we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. But we are allowed to dream a little bit.”
Wigan will be without influential forward Nick Powell, who sustained a hamstring injury in the league victory over Bradford on Wednesday.
But in Will Grigg they have the competition’s leading scorer with seven goals already, including the winner against City in the last round. Grigg’s achievements have been celebrated in culinary form with a ‘Will Grigg’s on fire’ pie specially made for the occasion by a local bakery.
Cook said: “He’s had songs about him, pies made for him. He’s having an outstanding season and we were lucky enough on Wednesday night to be able to give him a break.
“Obviously he’ll come back and lead the line. If you give good strikers chances, they score goals, and Will’s one of them for sure. Hopefully on Sunday he can get a chance or two.”