Belfast Telegraph

Doncaster can make history by storming the Palace, insists McCann

Bring it on: Grant McCann is relishing Palace battle
Bring it on: Grant McCann is relishing Palace battle

By Phil Casey

Doncaster manager Grant McCann claims it "sounds mad" to be within one game of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history.

But the former Northern Ireland international insists his League One side will not be intimidated by facing Premier League outfit Crystal Palace in front of the TV cameras at a sold-out Keepmoat Stadium tomorrow.

Rovers have banked around £400,000 in prize money by reaching the fifth round for the first time since 1956 and will earn a further £360,000 if they make the last eight.

A £250,000 Progress Prize from the EFL is also on offer for the club from each division which goes furthest in the competition.

"It's the first time the club's been to this stage in 63 years and we've got a chance to make history, not equal history, by getting to the quarter-final," McCann said.

"It sounds mad but we have absolutely nothing to lose. My message to the players is 'go and give it everything you have. Your family is in the stands watching you and make them proud'.

"The belief is high, the confidence is high and whatever way this game goes it's not going to affect the boys for the rest of the season. This is a one-off game for us where we can go and try to express ourselves and see how we get on.

"Everybody in the camp is buzzing. People are struggling to get tickets, and a packed Keepmoat, like we saw this season with the Sunderland game, generates a terrific atmosphere."

McCann feels it is one of those matches in which his players have nothing to lose, and no matter the result, they can hold their heads up high.

"Right from when I first came in we wanted to have a good cup run, the FA Cup was one of the priorities," added McCann, who has no fresh injury concerns.

"The league is the main focus, but this is a bonus. No-one outside of our football club expects us to do anything, so we can have a go at it.

"It's all about us. I could sit down with the boys and show them a two-hour video of Crystal Palace and they would walk away from the training ground petrified by some of the pace in their team, so it's not about that.

"It's about us playing our game, and if it's good enough, great. If it's not, at least we have no regrets in terms of the way we want to approach the game."

Palace are one of just four teams to beat leaders Manchester City in the Premier League this season, while they also knocked Spurs out of the FA Cup in the last round, but McCann is relishing the challenge.

"It's not intimidating, we've got to embrace it," the 38-year-old from Belfast added.

"It's a huge task for us but we've got some young players who would all love to be playing at that level one day, so it's a really good benchmark.

"We know how tough it's going to be but Crystal Palace will know they've been in a game.

"We'll be straight on the front foot when the whistle goes."

Palace forward Wilfried Zaha will miss out through suspension. Roy Hodgson could hand Michy Batshuayi his first Palace start. Batshuayi has made two appearances from the bench following his arrival on loan from Chelsea on deadline day.

Former England boss Hodgson added: "One thing I am certainly not prepared to do is to make any wholesale changes."

Hodgson will have Cheikhou Kouyate available after the midfielder missed the last two matches with an ankle issue.

Belfast Telegraph

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