Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup First Round tie at Shrewsbury Town will be a good test for Salford City according to manager Graham Alexander.
The Ammies head into the proper rounds for only the second time ever, and The Shrews will be the highest placed side we have ever faced.
On our last foray into the First Round we caused one of the biggest upsets as League Two Notts County were beaten 2-0, and some of that ‘magical’ feeling has been building this week.
“The players are aware of the game on Sunday already, they’ve been discussing it on and off during training. Training’s been the norm, preparations have been the norm but they’re aware of the game coming up, what it means to everyone and what it means to us so we’re looking forward to it and we’re quite aware of the challenge.
“It’ll be a tough game but we always look forward to the games, it’s a privilege to play professional football and certainly when the FA Cup comes around.”
As a manager Alexander won promotion to League One with Fleetwood Town and also managed Scunthorpe United at that level so he is fully aware of what to expect, but when it comes to the game the players have to do themselves justice.
“As managers and coaches we prepare the team, we sort of know what the challenge is ahead and we try to face those in training and prepare for those but once the whistle goes it’s down to players doing all the things they have to do week in, week out.
“It’s not managers who win games of football it’s players and we’ll prepare the players well as we always do and they’ll prepare themselves well because they’re fantastic professionals.
“We’ll know the challenge, we’ll know the quality that Shrewsbury have, they’ve picked up some real good results of late and when you think about it, Shrewsbury were in the play-offs for the Championship in May so that’s the competitive nature of what Shrewsbury can bring to the game.
“We’re going to have to be at our best or as near to our best as we can be to make it difficult for them. But we go into every game confident of our own ability, our own qualities, we always focus on those but you’ve also got to respect the opposition and we respect every opponent we play and Shrewsbury will be no different.”
Different runs of form
The Ammies head into this game on a 17-game unbeaten run in the league and FA Cup stretching back to August, while Shrewsbury have two wins from their last five.
Last season’s play-off finalists were rocked by the departure of Paul Hurst in the summer for Ipswich Town and replaced him with National League winner John Askey, but the gaffer is cautious of being lulled into a false sense of confidence based on form with Shrewsbury an established League side.
“It’s something that we’re quite pleased with I think we’d like to have won a couple of the games that we’ve played recently in the league but we’ve shown great resilience and character in a couple of those to get late equalisers.
“Any team at any level putting together such a run has obviously done a lot of good things, and that’s been the case, but we’re always striving to improve and we feel we can improve, but you have to take confidence from that. It’s confidence from the way we train, the way we play, prepare, that’s where the confidence comes from and that’s what’s coming out in the results and the performances.
“I don’t think Shrewsbury will take us lightly either, what I do know about professional football is there is a focus from every manager, coach and player to prepare right for games and I’m sure both teams will be fully prepared for that but it’s a good challenge for us, it’s a good one, we’ve obviously not the favourites playing a team two levels above us and that’s the reality of it, but we’ve seen in the past, FA Cup, anything can happen.
“I think the FA Cup sort of has a life of its own really, so as a team competing at the top end – I’m talking in general terms here – it can just be a bit of release from the pressure of that. If it’s a team at the bottom end it can sometimes be a distraction from that and give you an extra boost so it can be taken in any way and at the end of the day it depends on the result you get, for either team whatever level you’re at.
“I’ve looked at their recent results and they beat Wimbledon away which is always a tough venue, they beat Barnsley who are one of the favourites for promotion from League One so I don’t think we can look into their league position too much as a team because they’re at a higher level than us for a reason because they’ve got good players and they’ve done a lot of good things.
“But we believe in ourselves and I must stress that we’ve got a strong mentality, we’ve got high confidence in what we do and we haven’t got to go into that game undeterred from our own game and our own way of playing so that’s the most important thing, that we go and keep to what we do and see where it takes us.”
Part of that strong mentality is a positive, competitive culture which is in abundance not just around the first team, but is instilled in every area of the club which helps when it comes to every game.
“You can’t just have a part of your club or a part of your week geared up to winning, it’s got to be everything, everything you do right throughout the team, throughout the levels of the club, it is about being competitive and winning games so for me I’m quite relaxed that the players will go into it in the right frame of mind and looking to win the game.”
Match Day information for fans is available here. Tickets can be purchased on the gate.