Port Vale manager Neil Aspin was full of praise for the FA Cup ahead of their clash with Sunderland and insists the famous competition hasn’t lost its magic.
The Valiants welcome Jack Ross’s high-flying Black Cats to Vale Park on Sunday in what is arguably the highest profile game of the second-round affairs and the veteran boss understands the importance of the cup fixtures during his playing days with Leeds United and Vale.
“I got to a semi-final once, that’s the standout in terms of playing in it,” said Aspin.
“They are special occasions and you only get one chance every year and that’s why it’s so important that you give a good account of yourselves”
Vale welcome the former Premier League outfit at the perfect time with The Valiants undefeated in their last five matches as well as boasting an impressive four clean sheets since their 6-2 humbling against League Two leaders Lincoln City.
However, they face a monstrous opponent in the form of their lives as Sunderland travel to Staffordshire off the back of six-consecutive victories that has left them three points off League One front-runners Portsmouth with a game to spare.
Aspin was adamant his players would be up for the occasion and vowed his team would do everything in their power to cause another famous cup upset.
“What I want from the players is that they give a good account of themselves, and they give it a real good go,” the Vale manager continued.
“That’s all you can ask. You don’t want them to come off the pitch having any regrets, that they could have done more.”
“On the day if they’re not good enough, you hold your hands up, but they must do everything they can to get a result.
“We will be the underdogs, but we have to fight and scrap as if we are underdogs”.
The match is a perfect opportunity for the club to make a national statement with the game being shown live on BT Sport. And Aspin believes it’s the perfect opportunity for players to showcase themselves if they are to play at the highest level.
He said: “For our players they’re not often on TV very rarely involved in a live game so they’ll want to do well.
“They’re on a wider audience. They want to show what they can do so there is a bit more pressure on them, but, if they want to play at the highest level these are the games you really have to perform at your best.”
As a player, the Vale boss represented Leeds United in the semi-finals of the cup. The occasion was a boyhood dream of the former Whites defender and he was quick to defend that the famous competition still maintains its magic.
He said: “People have to realise that football isn’t just about the Premier League. “
It’s about every other club and to most, the FA Cup is a special competition and if other teams don’t feel the same then that’s up to them.
“There is life outside the Premier League, and to every league and non-league club who enters the FA Cup, it’s a special competition that we all want to do well in and progress.
“It’s a great draw for us in terms of it being high profile and against a big club, but it’s not a great draw in terms of it being the strongest team in the competition.