'We could be competing for something and this is a chance' - Leeds United urged to take FA Cup opportunity seriously

RIGHT HANDFUL - Gillingham's Mamady Sidibe gave Dominic Matteo and Leeds United a tough time in an FA Cup clash back in 2003. Pic: GettyRIGHT HANDFUL - Gillingham's Mamady Sidibe gave Dominic Matteo and Leeds United a tough time in an FA Cup clash back in 2003. Pic: Getty
RIGHT HANDFUL - Gillingham's Mamady Sidibe gave Dominic Matteo and Leeds United a tough time in an FA Cup clash back in 2003. Pic: Getty
In 2003 we went to Gillingham in the FA Cup and I remember thinking ‘we should be battering these.’

They were a First Division side and we were in the Premier League. We didn’t batter them, it was actually a really tough game.

Big Mamady Sidibe played and he was a right handful, standing at 6ft 7ins or whatever he is. Andy Hessenthaler was their captain, the little midfielder. We drew 1-1 and they took us to a replay, which thankfully we won 2-1.

If you’re not on it in this type of game you get found out.

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You know it’s going to be hard. It’s the biggest game for Crawley Town, against a big club like Leeds, especially with Marcelo Bielsa in charge.

Whoever he decides to play and hopefully he goes with a strong side, they’ll understand that and be ready.

After a bad result albeit against a good side containing two of the best attacking talents in world football in Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane, it’s important to bounce back, which we usually do and have done this season previously.

The players will look at this game against a League Two team in Crawley Town and think we can progress. Yet it’s that type of game you expect to win and it doesn’t always pan out that way.

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We’ve not done really well in the FA Cup for a long time. After we beat Gillingham we went on to reach the quarter-final. I didn’t quite make the quarter-final game against Sheffield United because I was injured, a game we lost 1-0.

There’s just something special about the FA Cup, playing in it.

As a young player I played in it for Liverpool and was around the squad for the semi-final and final, when there was that famous white suit, a really bad white suit.

Some of the big boys don’t take it as seriously as they should. Clubs around the top six field a mixed side, we know Jurgen Klopp has a lot of injuries and others will make changes, but Bielsa doesn’t make a habit of changing too much and you wonder if he did, how it would affect the Leeds team? Have they got enough characters outside the usual starters to deal with the game if it gets a bit rough and tough, can we handle that? It’s another little challenge.

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I wouldn’t be resting many players, only certain clubs are in that position to be able to do that and give seven or eight a break and Leeds aren’t quite there yet with this squad.

It’s a game you expect Leeds to win, no matter who plays for or against them on Sunday, but there’s still always a little question mark.

I always found them hard to play in, games against lower league opposition. It’s a lose, lose situation sometimes for the Premier League side. If you win by two or three you were expected to, if you get beat then you’re rubbish aren’t you?

And there’s always a shock in the FA Cup Leeds have had some bad ones over the years, like Histon away in 2008 when they lost 1-0 in that infamous upset, it doesn’t get much worse than that. If you’re off it just a fraction you can get done and Leeds have to be aware of that going to Crawley.

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We’re not going to win the league, let’s be realistic, so the FA Cup is an opportunity, something Leeds could try and win. With the players we have and the type of football we play, we could be competing for something and this is a chance to do that. It’s been too long since Leeds last won the FA Cup, we’re almost talking 50 years.

Staying in the Premier League has to be the priority this season of course for everyone, but a good FA Cup run would bring a lot of confidence. We would need a little bit of luck with the draw, if we beat Crawley, but we are due it.

You hope that the likes of Rodrigo and Raphinha will have taken on board how big and important the FA Cup is, to a lot of people, if they play this weekend. They need to grasp what it means and I’m sure they’ll be well clued up and given all the information they need by the coaches and their team-mates like Kalvin Phillips.

It’s overlooked a little bit nowadays because the big clubs have to prioritise going for the league title and the Champions League, that’s just the way it is. It was always massive to me, though, I always loved it, playing or watching and I was gutted never to win it, having got close a couple of times. At Blackburn Rovers we lost 3-0 to Arsenal in the semi-final, in a game I thought we had a real chance to win. They wiped us off the park, went 3-0 up and that was it, dead and buried.

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Getting that far would give the Leeds fans a bit of a buzz, even if they can’t be there in person to see it, it would be a lovely lift for everyone.

It will be an interesting game for Leeds and a brilliant one for Crawley, it’s certainly a visit to their stadium they will relish.

Who knows, if it isn’t a banana skin and we do get through the first hurdle then maybe, just maybe it could be our year.