Five key points that identify giant-killers
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
SCALPERS: Blyth Spartans enjoy their FA Cup giant-killing