‘If you disrespect your opposition, you will get knocked out’

Paul Cook
Paul Cook
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Paul Cook insists the players he sends out on to the pitch this weekend have a duty to both the FA Cup and to Wigan Athletic Football Club to put on a show against Crawley this weekend.

Latics, second in League One, will be red-hot favourites to make light work of Crawley, sixth bottom in League Two, and book their place in the second round of the famous competition.

Cook, however, is taking nothing for granted, and will field a side only a couple of names away from being full strength.

And he’s called on the players to take the game equally seriously – or run the risk of being bundled out at the first hurdle.

“Historically it’s a great day in the footballing calendar,” acknowledged Cook.

“It’s one I’ve always loved as a supporter, then a player, and now as a manager.

“The competition holds great memories for me, going back to my days as a young boy.

“I was lucky enough to go to my first final back in 1974, Liverpool against Newcastle – Keegan two, Heighway one, Liverpool three, Newcastle none!

“Then as a player I was able to break into Wigan’s team as a young lad, and we had that great cup run in 1987.

“Latterly as a manager, it’s not been quite that fantastic, although we did have a great tie at Chesterfield against Derby.

“But the challenge for the majority of League One and League Two clubs is to make it into the hat for the third round.

“This club was lucky enough to get Manchester United away in round four last year, and that’s what can happen to any club in the competition.”

While many managers up and down the country will take the opportunity to rotate, Cook doesn’t want to lose any momentum generated by the fine league form to date.

“When people see our team sheet before the game, they’ll see how seriously we’re treating the game,” the Latics boss said.

“It’ll be a very strong team, albeit with a change or two.

“What we don’t want to do is be carrying injuries into the league programme, and Michael Jacobs has been nursing a thigh strain for three or four weeks.

“He’s fit to play, but it’s never really been right, and rather than keep him in there we’ll give him a little rest that will hopefully see him right for next weekend.

“There might be one other change, possibly, but other than that it will be a very strong Wigan Athletic side.

“Will Grigg will be involved, and that’s another bonus for us.

“He’s trained really well this week, and he is fit and available for selection.

“And I like that - I like all the players being fit, and a manager having a real selection problem to select a team.”

Having been in the game for over three decades, Cook is well aware of what can happen in the most famous cup competition of them all.

“On paper, you’ve got two teams where you’d expect Wigan Athletic to go through,” he assessed.

“Crawley will hope to be a giant-killer, and therein lies the problem.

“There will be teams who will find themselves out of the competition come Monday morning.

“Somewhere down the fixture list there will be teams who are expected to win but will get knocked out.

“We’ve got to try our best to try and make sure one of them is not us!

“Mentally, you must be right heading into these games.

“If you disrespect your opposition, you will get knocked out.”