FOR Paul Cox to say that it had escaped his attentions that Guiseley were in FA Cup action in a nostalgic ‘memory lane’ fixture at former club Mansfield Town on Sunday would represent a surprise to many.
Most onlookers would justifiably venture that the tie would have been at the forefront of the ex-Stags manager’s mind since the second-round draw opened up that tantalising prospect on November 6.
Moreso when the Lions made history by reaching round two of the competition for the first time by beating League Two high-fliers Accrington Stanley on penalties on a momentous night eight days on.
But for Cox, who has made no secret about the fact that the league is very much his priority as he strives to put Guiseley on an even keel in the National League, his focus on non-cup matters is genuine.
Even accounting for the personal symbolism of Sunday’s meeting, which sees him return to the club that he managed for three-and-a-half years from May 2011 to November 2014.
Cox said: “I had kind of really forgotten about it – even though there has been a lot of people and talk around it obviously because of it being one of my previous clubs.
“I spoke to one of the directors of Mansfield this week and just said ‘we will meet up for a coffee at some time in the next couple of weeks’ and he said ‘so, you are not coming Sunday, then?’. I had totally forgotten about the game as there is that much I have been doing.
“I wanted his advice in terms of building the club. It has been quite surreal in a way.”
Preoccupied by the here and now of getting league results to pull Guiseley away from relegation trouble, Cox is also busily stamping his own ethos on the football club, which recently brought forward a move to operate on a full-time basis.
The present is keeping him pretty busy as it stands, with the Lions boss stewing after last weekend’s 2-0 home loss to Sutton United – the club’s third successive league defeat – with the Nethermoor outfit having dropped back into the relegation positions.
Talk has centred on the fact that Guiseley’s cup heroics may have distracted some players from the key business of league matters and Cox can see where that train of thought stems from.
Cox said: “I would be lying if I said ‘no’. There is something in there. On Saturday, we dropped below our standards, in terms of the intensity of the way we play and the way we get about teams.
“Whether it is psychological; I have been there before. As much as you say to players ‘this is the most important game’, players don’t want to get injured and don’t want to put themselves on the line because, subconsciously, they are thinking of the FA Cup game in front of a half-decent crowd and the cameras being there is their priority. I would be a hypocrite if I wanted people to stop dreaming, because we could make history for the football club early on. It has been a strange ten to 12 days. I probably sounded like something I was not meant to be on Saturday and had a bit of a grump on. But I always maintain that the main aim of this club this season is to keep the club in this division.
“But I understand I am working with human beings and the need was to keep them fairly focused on the league game on Saturday. But even the Alex Fergusons of the past will have struggled with (keeping focus) ahead of the bigger games.
“But it (Mansfield) is something we want to look forward to and embrace and go and try and put on a good show and make our supporters proud of us and cause an upset.”