Five key points that iden­tify gi­ant-killers

The Football League Paper - - PROFILE -

Blyth Spar­tans be­came the first team to join the big boys in the FA Cup third round as they took the scalp of League Two’s Hartle­pool United in Fri­day night’s tele­vised game.

In so do­ing, Blyth joined a grow­ing num­ber of Non-League clubs to have taken league scalps in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Of course, my own team fell to Maid­stone United in a tele­vised re­play in round one.

For me, that was a re­gret­table first. I have made a good name as an FA Cup gi­antkiller in my man­age­rial ca­reer and I had no in­ten­tion of be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end. Hope­fully, my first will be my last.

How­ever of­ten a gi­antkilling oc­curs, peo­ple will won­der how it hap­pens. How can part-time Blyth beat full-time Hartle­pool? How can League Two Steve­nage beat Premier League New­cas­tle?

I re­mem­ber see­ing a video on gi­antkilling just be­fore my Non­League Farm­bor­ough team were to visit Dou­ble-win­ning Arse­nal at High­bury. That video cen­tred on three main points: 1. Gi­ant killers need an in­spired goal­keeper. 2. Gi­ant killers need to get a goal at a set piece. 3. Gi­ant killers need a lot of luck.

Over the years, I have re­flected on that for­mula and I’m not sure I agree. I think it over sim­pli­fies things. My own views on the mat­ter are th­ese: 1. It is likely that the ‘bet­ter’ side will have bet­ter foot­ballers and bet­ter ath­letes. So there is no point in the min­now try­ing to be bet­ter than them at those things. It doesn’t mat­ter how hard you try, you are un­likely to suc­ceed.You have to work out what you CAN re­al­is­ti­cally be bet­ter at than them. 2. An ob­vi­ous op­por­tu­nity is in the as­pect of de­sire. The gi­ant is ex­pected to win while the min­now is ex­pected to lose. The gi­ant has noth­ing to gain and ev­ery­thing to lose. The min­now can build up a phe­nom­e­nal de­sire be­cause of this. It is work rate not luck that I be­lieve makes the dif­fer­ence. 3. It is easy for the gi­ant to un­der­es­ti­mate the min­now. Or, in try­ing not to un­der­es­ti­mate the min­now, the gi­ant can even over­es­ti­mate the min­now. It is a dif­fi­cult bal­ance to strike. The me­dia love an up­set and will clev­erly se­duce the gi­ant into the wrong frame of mind. 4. This game will be the min­now’s ev­ery­thing. The gi­ant has to make this game their ev­ery­thing, too. That is not easy.You can­not un­der­es­ti­mate how far the min­now will go. I warned my Steve­nage lads of the ex­tents to which Maid­stone may go and I warned them to take noth­ing for granted. I very much doubt that any gi­ant re­alises how far even my Non-League teams went to cre­ate a win­ning way; my Non-League lads would take a fort­night off work and train full time in prepa­ra­tion for an im­por­tant FA Cup tie. 5. The min­now is likely to gen­er­ate in­cred­i­ble support at a lo­cal level and also more widely; we love an un­der­dog. That can dis­tort the match­day at­mos­phere and you

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

SCALPERS: Blyth Spar­tans en­joy their FA Cup gi­ant-killing

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