Ahead of Barrow’s FA Cup Second Round tie at Bristol Rovers, Bluebirds manager Paul Cox insisted that he won’t stop his players dreaming of a Third Round tie.
Cox’s side go into the tie in good form.
In fact they go into the tie in the best run of form in the club’s one hundred and fifteen year history.
That has led to the tie being tipped as a potential giantkilling, with the Bluebirds having to overcome a gap of forty league positions between the two sides.
Their opponents sit in thirteenth position in the SkyBet League One table, meaning Barrow have a sizable task ahead of them if they are to make it into the Third Round for the first time since 2010, when they were beaten 3-0 by Premier League club Sunderland in front of 25,190 at the Stadium of Light.
However, Cox isn’t going to stop his players dreaming of a January trip to face one of the Premier League’s elite.
He said “I think the one thing the FA Cup does is it gives you something to look forward to. It is a case of ifs, buts and maybes.
“We are focused on this tie but part of being a professional football is knowing that if we were to get over this tie the dream of walking out at Old Trafford or Anfield is there.
“I won’t dampen anyone who has dreams or aspirations of doing that, I want them to dream about it.
“Initially we have to focus on the Bristol Rovers game, it is a massive game and a big test for us. The majority of people in football will think Bristol Rovers will beat us and rightly so.
“But this is the FA Cup and you just never know, the beauty of the FA Cup is that you never know what is next”
The FA Cup has been kind to Cox in his short time as a manager.
He took Eastwood Town to the Third Round in 2009 four years later he led Mansfield Town into the Third Round.
The prize for the then-National League club was a home tie against Premier League giants Liverpool, with the tie becoming infamous for a controversial goal by Reds striker Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan superstar – now with Barcelona – had only been on the pitch for six minutes when he doubled his side’s 1-0 lead.
The goal sparked furious protests from the Stags players after Suarez controlled the ball with his hand before rolling the ball into the net.
TV replays supported the protests, but referee Andre Marriner was unmoved, with the Reds claiming a place in the Fourth Round with a 2-1 win, despite facing a late onslaught from the Stags after they halved the deficit with a late Green goal.
Despite all of the controversy, Cox still remembers the day with affection and bares no ill will towards Suarez.
“When I was at Mansfield Town we got drawn away to Lincoln City, which was a tough draw but we won after a replay, knowing we would play against Liverpool in the Third Round.
“It was the game that was infamous for the handball by Luis Suarez but on the day we ran a very good Liverpool side very close. They had the likes of Suarez, Sturridge, Stirling and Carragher playing. All of the big boys played and it was a great game.
“I think we put Mansfield Town back on the map and showed the way we played the game, the way we reacted to the comments about the controversial goal.
“A lot of people at that stage wanted to put Suarez’s head on a plate but I just thought he was such a great footballing talent. I would ask my centre forward to do the same thing, put it in the back of the net.
“I don’t blame him, I blame the officials. They missed it and they missed a blatent penalty for us when Joe Allen handballed on the line from a Matt Green backheel.
“It wasn’t to be on the day, we would have loved a replay at Anfield but we came out of it with our heads held high”
Holding your head high is something that Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke is able to do after taking the club from the National League into SkyBet League One with consecutive promotions.
That is all a far cry from the final day of the 2013/14 season when Cox’s Mansfield Town side ended Rovers’ ninety four year stay in the Football League with a 1-0 win at the Memorial Stadium.
Since then it has been mainly positive for Clarke and his side and Cox has nothing but admiration for his opposite number on Sunday.
“There is history there with Darrell Clarke and I go back a long way with him.
“My Mansfield side relegated them into the Conference a few years ago and I felt for him but what a journey they have been on and what a job he has done.
“They are potentially a massive football club.
“Getting promoted is tough, getting back-to-back promotions is an amazing feat. He deserves all of the accolades that come his way and he has done a fantastic job there.
“He is a talented young English coach and it is great to see him doing so well”
Cox is realistic about his side’s chances of causing an upset at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Although he does believe that the Bluebirds can go into the game with a confident attitude he also understands that they are underdogs for the tie.
He said “I would like think that these kind of games are the sort you can play with a bit of freedom.
“We can go down to Bristol Rovers and enjoy it, that’s not saying all of sudden we have a defeatist attitude.
“We will prepare well, we are on a great run of form and the boys will go into it very confidently.
“But we have been in a position playing a team from leagues below you and the pressure is all on you. The bigger club, the club that is expected to win, the pressure is on them but we will look to progress and enjoy the ride”
Wins over Tranmere Rovers and Taunton Town have set up Barrow’s FA Cup Second Round date with Bristol Rovers, leading to excitement around the town that the club can clinch a place in the Third Round on Sunday.
That mood has spread to Cox and his players, with the Bluebirds boss admitting that he can “sense the excitement” around the town.
There is a good feeling about Barrow these days with the cup run adding to the momentum built up by their FA Cup run, but now Cox is urging everybody connected with the club to be “greedy for more”.
“You can sense the excitement amongst the supporters. A number of them will be travelling down there with us and they will embrace it.
“We have come so far in a year, it’s hard to articulate just how far we have come.
“And sometimes a lot of people are pinching themselves with the run of form we are on, with the consistancy we are producing.
“We are still in the FA Trophy, we are still in the local cups, we are going well in the league and if we were to still be in the FA Cup in January, that would be excellent.
“It’s not been a really good competition for the club in the last couple of years but we want to put some smiles on faces, to give the town that little bit of kudos and that ability to enjoy it.
“We are enjoying the ride at the moment but we have to be greedy for more”
Cox will hope that ride will lead him to a potential reunion with Liverpool when Third Round day comes around in January.