Steve Evans keen to have another good FA Cup campaign.
The FA Cup holds a special place in the heart of Steve Evans and he has told his players that they will need to work as hard as Woking if they want to enjoy a run in this year’s competition.
Saturday’s National League opposition have had FA Cup campaigns which have entered folklore and will themselves have dreams of perhaps meeting a Premier League glamour side when they enter the competition in the third round, something Gillingham have experienced for the last two seasons.
Evans said: “To me personally, the FA Cup will always be a priority. It’s such a magical competition and has given me some of the best days of my life that I will remember forever. I’d love another cup run. You can never devalue the FA Cup. It is a magical competition where you can test yourself against the best coaches and players in the world.
“We have wonderful memories from last year with West Ham coming to us, being in front of the television cameras and having a packed-out Priestfield. But you don’t get those magical days if you can’t deal with the first and second round.
“Woking will want to come and show what they can do and prove a point. There will be several shocks tomorrow and unexpected results, we need to make sure that we are not a statistic.
“By 5:05pm on Saturday they will be announcing on the BBC a number of cup upsets, we have to make sure we are not one of them.”
Having managed himself in the lower leagues, Evans knows exactly what this game will mean to Woking, who he believes will benefit from being the underdogs in an empty stadium.
“It’s massive for them. You only have to look at the celebrations when they got through in the last round. I’ve been there. I’m no different to the Woking manager. I’ve been there waiting for that first round draw hoping you get a team like Gillingham. The fans are not in the stadium which gives the smaller team a bit of an advantage.
“Woking are a club that everyone has been waiting for to break into the Football League for some time. Back in my time of non-league football, they were the benchmark. Who could ever forget their magical FA Cup run when they went to Coventry (who they eventually lost to in a third round replay after knocking out Millwall and Cambridge United)? I can still remember watching it now.
“But we’ve had good history here as well and we are a proud football club. We want to make progress.”
Evans and his management team are leaving nothing to chance and have been familiarising themselves with the opposition, however they won’t need to research one player too hard. Former-Gills favourite Matt Jarvis returns to MEMS Priestfield Stadium with Woking and the ex-England international who starred at Wolves, West Ham and Norwich is still highly regarded by Evans.
Evans said: “Jarvis is a wonderful talent and a wonderful human being. A great lad. He would have got a great reception from the Kent faithful tomorrow, so that’s a shame. He can cause us problems so we need to make sure that we are on top of the game. We hope he comes back and enjoys his day, but we hope he goes home out of the FA Cup.”
The Gills boss has enjoyed taking major scalps in the competition himself, which has taken him all the way to Old Trafford in 2010-11, where his non-league Crawley side lost to Manchester United in the fifth round. They were eventually beaten by the Premier League giants 1-0 with his side hitting the bar in the 93rd minute.
Evans has warned his Gills team that they will need to be professional if they are to avoid being one of the bigger teams dumped out of the cup.
He said: “Cup tie football is like the play-offs. The games are played to their conclusion which leads to more excitement. If we stay professional then we should make progress.
“It is a big day for them tomorrow. We have to be on guard. If it comes down to sheer ability and we are working as hard as they are then we should take care of it. If we don’t, we will get beaten, that’s the nature of the FA Cup.”