Keith Hill says his Rochdale side will have no fear ahead of Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup fifth round tie against Tottenham Hotspur at the Crown Oil Arena.
Dale’s form in the FA Cup has seen the club reach the fifth round for only the third time in its history, and he says the players should embrace Sunday’s encounter with the Premier League giants.
“The players have got to believe, trust themselves and elevate their games,” said Hill.
“They’ve got to remember why they turned professional – for games like this. Every week they’re competing in League One to try and aspire to be a Premier League player.
“This is a unique opportunity for the players. They’ve earned it, and they should embrace it and not fear it. I just want them to enjoy the test. It’s more a test of mentality for the players against the speed of the opponents.
“We’ve got talented players, and it’s up to those players to play above and beyond their performance levels, and I do believe that players up and down the FL pyramid are more than capable of doing that for 90 minutes plus. It’s what we’re striving for – minimum mistakes, maximum impact.”
Newport County forced a replay against Spurs in the previous round, and with Coventry City and Wigan Athletic already causing upsets against Premier League opposition so far in this competition, Hill says his squad have no fear.
“If you look at Coventry beating Stoke, Wigan beating West Ham and Bournemouth, I think on a matchday it’s two worlds colliding, but it’s two sets of players competing.
“Tottenham will be competitive, but we’ve got to be as keen and as competitive as we’ve always been. We need intelligent energy, and we won’t differ too far away from the way that we do things, if at all, and it’s important that the players embrace the occasion.
“We’ve no fear, and our FA Cup form has been pretty good this season. We’ve scored 12, conceded two, and I think we’ve been excellent. We can take our cup form into the Tottenham game.”
The Dale boss has thanked the fans for their backing during the club’s FA Cup run and throughout the season, and says this match is payback for their loyal support.
“It’s been an exciting tournament for us, and it will be special on the day.
“For family and friends, and loyal supporters that have seen this club through thick and thin – although there hasn’t been too much thick!
“It’s a little bit of payback for the supporters, supporters who were there on Tuesday night against Bristol Rovers, and in previous rounds when we’ve been away from home.
“Those that went to Millwall probably weren’t expecting us to win, but they were amazing in their support, and that type of noise started at Doncaster away and that saw us through.”
Hill also revealed that Calvin Andrew is likely to miss Sunday’s game, after scans during the week revealed his injury is worse than first thought.
“It’s unlikely that he’ll be involved – the injury is worse than we thought.
“He’s played through pain, but the pain has become too much to bare. He’s on ice and rest, and we’re hoping he’ll be fit for the league campaign which is obviously very important to us.
“It’s not just the footballing loss of Calvin – he does deserve to play. He’s been superb for us in the FA Cup especially. His form going into the games has been brilliant. He’ll be missed, but it’s an opportunity for another player.
“He is injured and can’t be considered, but I do feel sorry for Calvin in a way because it was his opportunity to relive the dream and he’s helped us to get to the fifth round.
“These opportunities for the older players run out, but for the younger players they run in. A few of them might well be playing Premier League football.”
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