Wigan Athletic star eyes '˜the pinnacle'
Max Power admits he and his Wigan Athletic team-mates are having to keep a lid on their emotions despite being 90 minutes away from '˜the pinnacle' '“ an appearance at Wembley Stadium.
Just Premier League strugglers Southampton stand between Latics and a return to the national stadium for an FA Cup semi-final next month.
And while the club has been synonymous with Wembley and the FA Cup in recent years, Power and the vast majority of his colleagues have never come close to getting there.
Which cranks up the excitement – and the pressure – ahead of Sunday’s huge quarter-final tie at the DW Stadium.
“You ask any footballer, and they’ll tell you...Wembley, it’s the pinnacle,” Power told the Wigan Post.
“Look at the teams left in it as well, and there’s some potentially massive ties in there to come.
“The most important thing is to not look too far ahead, though, and just concentrate on the test in front of us – and that’s Southampton.”
Latics will certainly have no fear of playing top-flight opposition, having already dumped Bournemouth, West Ham and Premier League champions-elect Manchester City from this season’s competition.
“It’s about managing expectations now, because some people will think after beating Man City it’ll be easy,” acknowledged Power.
“We know that’s not the case, and it’s going to be every bit as stern a test. The three previous games against Premier League opposition have all been tough games, and Southampton will be the toughest of them all.
“They’ll know, as we do, that we’re only 90 minutes away from Wembley...and that’s a massive incentive.”
For Power, the FA Cup has always had a special significance, and he’s hoping to emulate another scouse midfielder from yesteryear in his bid for silverware.
“I remember as a kid watching Liverpool win the FA Cup a couple of times,” the ex-Tranmere skipper revealed.
“Back then it was the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (Wembley was being renovated), and I went to a few of the finals as a fan.
“I remember the ‘Steven Gerrard final’, when he scored that great goal at the end against West Ham (in 2006), and it just showed why it’s the best cup competition in the world.
“This is the furthest I’ve ever been in the FA Cup, and I think that goes for most if not all of the lads.
“Sunday’s going to be a great occasion, and fingers crossed we can pull it off.”
Latics got their promotion push back on track in midweek with a last-gasp win at Bradford that saw them leapfrog second-placed Shrewsbury on goal difference, with a game in hand.
The gap to leaders to leaders Blackburn has been cut to just five points, with three games in hand, and Power is adamant the squad is capable of competing on two fronts for the next couple of months.
“As a club, you want to win every game, and every competition you enter,” he added.
“We know the league’s the priority, but we’re in a fantastic position.
“I know other clubs are keeping their fingers crossed the fixture congestion we’ve got will derail us.
“But we know we’ve got a good enough squad to cope with all the games and getting the results we need.
“Coming to the business end, the emphasis is now on recovery between games. We feel we’ve got the squad to cope, and everyone’s pulling in the same direction.”