Gary Roberts insists the FA Cup remains as special as it’s ever been ahead of Wigan Athletic’s first-round tie against League Two strugglers Crawley Town.
It’s over a decade since Roberts made his first appearance in the competition, during his Ipswich Town days, and some now see it as a hindrance compared to the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.
But the 33-year-old says the thrill of playing in the most famous cup competition of them all – which Latics famously lifted in 2013 – will never fade in his eyes.
“I definitely don’t look at the FA Cup as a distraction, not at all,” Roberts told the Wigan Post.
“Some see it as that, and prefer to concentrate on the league, but for me it’s the best cup competition in the world.
“I’ve always loved playing in the FA Cup, I’ve done quite well in it over the years, and it would be nice to keep that going.
“I’ve been to some really big grounds, and I’ve managed to score in most of the cup campaigns.
“I also think it’s great for the fans – especially for those of the smaller clubs.
“It gives them the chance of experiencing a game against the absolute elite.
“I’m a little bit older, and as a kid I used to love the FA Cup, and what it stood for.
“People from my generation appreciate it that bit more, which is nice.”
Latics kick-off their 2017/18 FA Cup campaign with the visit of Crawley, who currently sit six places from the bottom of the fourth tier.
And Roberts is happy enough to start with a home tie against lower-division opposition, ahead of the ‘big boys’ joining the fray at the third-round stage.
“It’s always nice to get a big club, but in the first couple of rounds all you’re looking for is getting a home tie,” he acknowledged.
“You don’t want to be going away to non-league teams, because they’re often banana skins that trip up league sides.
“Thankfully we’re at home against Crawley, and it gives us a really great chance.”
Latics signed off from league duty with a goalless draw against Blackburn last weekend, which saw them cut the gap to leaders Shrewsbury to a single point.
It was a tale of what might have been, with Latics unable to make the most of a one-man advantage in the last half-hour, following the sending-off of Blackburn’s Elliott Bennett for a second bookable offence.
But Roberts was happy to maintain the 12-point gap between Latics and their main pre-season promotion rivals ahead of the weekend ‘off’.
“In those tight games, with two good teams, there’s sometimes not as much quality as you’d like,” the frontman added.
“There wasn’t much football played, it was more of a battle, but we thought we might have done enough to nick it at the end.
“It just never dropped for us, maybe we could have had a couple of penalties, but it wasn’t to be.
“They looked like they came with a game-plan to get a point, judging by the way they set up, and they defended well to be fair.
“It just wasn’t our day, but it was also important to stay switched on at the back and make sure they didn’t hit us on the break.
“We were desperate to win the game, because we knew that would have put us 15 points ahead of Blackburn.
“That’s such a massive gap, even at this stage, against a side who we’d probably regard as a direct threat.
“We know they’ll be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, so at least we managed to keep the gap at 12.”