Neal Ardley’s playing days included two FA Cup semi-final appearances and the Dons boss believes the competition can now be hugely significant for him as a manager.
Speaking to WDON commentator Rob Cornell on Dons Player, Neal recalled five near misses in cup competitions, including making the last four with both Wimbledon in 1997 and Watford in 2003. The FA Cup is therefore a competition which Neal values a lot and even more so now that he is the manager of a club with a big tradition in the competition.
Neal said: “I got to five cup semi-finals as a player and lost them all, but I think we would all be happy here if we got that far! It is a great competition and those people who are my age will remember it as one of the biggest competitions. The FA Cup final was always a great day, watching the players come off the coach and things like that. A lot of people say it has lost its romance, but I don’t know about that.
“For clubs such as us, it means a hell of a lot. It means more revenue if we can get through a couple of rounds as we may get that dream tie we are all looking for. This club has a great history in the competition (winning the FA Cup in 1988) and it is an amazing story. It is a vital competition for us now though too. The league is important and we have to make sure that we retain our league status and move up the table. But if we produce a couple of good wins in the competition and get to the third round , it would be phenomenal.”
However, with tomorrow’s opponents York City currently flying high in League 2 after promotion from the Conference, the Dons boss knows it is going to be tough to make it into Sunday’s second round draw.
“It is a cup game away from home and from what I have been told we do not have a good record against them,” he added. “It is going to be tough as they are also unbeaten in the last four or five games. We are under no illusions about how difficult it is going to be. We will have to keep our performance levels high to get anything out of the game. They will be desperate to get through as much as we will, so both teams will be having a good go at it.”
For the record, it was one win each for both clubs in the last two meetings during Wimbledon’s 2010/11 promotion season from the Conference with the Dons having beaten York 1-0 at home, but suffering a 4-1 defeat in the reverse fixture.
The draw for the second round of the FA Cup will be made at around 2.40pm on Sunday, Live on ITV 1.