Leeds United: Beating Watford would be a real feat

Steve Evans

Steve Evans

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THINK FA Cup shocks and the mind is automatically drawn to feats such as Hereford United’s famous defeat of Newcastle United in 1972.

The less said about Histon’s 2008 scalp of Leeds United the better, with 2010’s famous win at Old Trafford bringing back rather different memories.

At first glance, Leeds winning at Watford would not compare but head coach Steve Evans insists there would be no hiding the magnitude of the shock should his men triumph on Saturday in the fifth round at Vicarage Road.

United may have won the FA Cup in 1972 and be three time runners-up, with Watford beaten finalists in 1984, but Evans is fully aware of the modern day differences between the Hornets and the Whites.

And while the Hertfordshire side may not be naturally recognised as one of the Premier League ‘big guns’, Evans says there can be no escaping the talents of a team currently ninth in England’s top flight.

With the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City still in the competition, Watford can be backed at 25-1 to win at Wembley, yet Evans insists the Hornets are one of the best sides left in the competition.

Furthermore, the Glaswegian is aware United are 27 places lower down the pyramid, and currently some distance away from the Premier League.

Evans admitted: “I think the finance in the Premier League enables you to put players in your squad that you can’t dream of in the Championship any more, unless you are subject to the big parachute payments that get paid.

“They went up and people thought they might sell (Troy) Deeney or they might sell certainly (Odion) Ighalo and people like that, but they kept those and they have added some real outstanding signings.

“From that point of view, it may not be seen as an upset if we were to beat them but in the football world it will.

“This is a club that is sitting ninth in the Premier League and they have only lost at Vicarage Road to the giants in England – like Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United.

“I think other than that they have been sweeping all before them there and I watched them myself recently draw at Chelsea and I said it took Chelsea 61 minutes to get a shot anywhere near Watford’s goal, such was the quality of the performance.”

Watford are unsurprisingly odds-on favourites to oblige on Saturday – odds of 4-6 are the best on offer – with Leeds available at 5s.

Evans, though, believes his men have the capabilities to progress to the quarter-finals with the head coach particularly fancying his chances in the event of an Elland Road replay.

The 53-year-old is also keen to remind his players there will be no second chance for a below par performance at Vicarage Road.

“The quarter-finals is a real prize for us,” said Evans.

“Going to Watford and being in the Cup when we come out probably puts 30,000 in Elland Road for a replay.

“And I’ve always said, give us anyone at Elland Road and the way we played on Monday night and the way I think this team can play and we’ll have a real opportunity to get through to the quarter-finals.

“But first and foremost we can’t speak about that because we have one of the best sides left in the competition to play.

“I’ve been reasonably successful in the FA Cup but I’ve always said to the players that this ain’t a league game and there’s no coming back.

“I think it will be a fantastic atmosphere, I think we are taking nearly 4,500 supporters and if there would have been 15,000 tickets available, the ticket office people have told me it would have been 15,000 sales.”

Asked for his views about potential future plans to scrap FA Cup replays, Evans reasoned: “I think if you sit in the Premier League, and you have got one game a week for 60 or 70 per cent of your season, to then say that we need a spare three or four weeks off at the turn of the year and we could do away with the cup replays, perhaps some of those chairmen and players need to remember where they have come from.

“If you are a Conference club or are in Leagues Two and One and you draw a replay against a team in the Premier League that may be the difference why you get through a season.

“It wouldn’t matter to me if I was head coach of Leeds United top of the Premier League, I’d want replays in the FA Cup and I think the teams down lower the pyramid earn the right to have a replay.

“I think it’s probably 90-plus per cent of the finance from television et cetera and media deals goes to the Premier League as it is.

“So what they are trying to do is cut even less revenue for the teams below them, I just don’t see that as fair.”