The Blyth Spartans manager, Harry Dunn, has urged his players to grasp a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" when they face Blackburn in the FA Cup third round tonight.
The Blue Square North outfit are staring relegation in the face but will step onto the Croft Park pitch knowing they have the chance to become heroes. It is not the first time the magic of the FA Cup has taken over the town of Blyth – they reached the fifth round of the competition in 1978 before losing in a replay to Wrexham at St James' Park.
The Blyth players of 31 years ago can look back on their exploits fondly and Dunn wants his players to take that spirit into the game and leave with their heads held high – regardless of the result. "It has been 31 years since the club and town has been associated with this type of game and the players may never get this chance again," Dunn said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go out, do themselves proud and when they go home at the end of the night they can look back and say 'that's best I could do, I couldn't have done any better than that'.
"As long as we go away thinking that way and perform that way then we can be happy with what we've done."
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce admits he is not looking forward to tonight's tie. "You can't look forward to it because we've nothing to gain and everything to lose," said Allardyce. "It's a very difficult game. They will play well above themselves and run until they drop. They will play to a standard they don't normally play to and we've got to combat that.
"We've got to be professional against a team that shouldn't really get a result against us. If we don't get the attitude right, we could slip up."
Allardyce's priority, of course, is to avoid relegation from the Premier League and he has been encouraged by what he has seen so far. Rovers are enjoying a three-match unbeaten run since the former Bolton and Newcastle boss succeeded Paul Ince, but Allardyce knows they could already be out of the relegation zone had they not been careless. They were held to a goalless draw at Sunderland and, in their last match, let slip a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Manchester City.
"It was nice to see the players so disappointed after the last game," said Allardyce. "It was the right reaction, knowing they were 2-0 up and shouldn't have let the game slip. We've had a long time to recover. I was disappointed we didn't see the last four minutes out but I was extremely pleased with the performance."Reuse content