Cup is still magical says PNE boss

Calum Woods is nearing a return to full fitness

Calum Woods is nearing a return to full fitness

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The magic of the FA Cup is still very much alive and kicking as far as Preston North End boss Simon Grayson is concerned.

PNE travel to face Conference South outfit Havant and Waterlooville in the first round of the competition on Monday night.

Once upon a time, the FA Cup – particularly the final at Wembley – was the showpiece event of the footballing calendar.

These days the competition does not quite hold the same standing and prestige within the game.

Clubs in the Premier League prefer to prioritise winning a Champions League place than holding the cup aloft in the Royal Box.

Grayson concedes the FA Cup has lost some of its mystique compared to yesteryear but has no doubt there will be a real buzz in the air when his North End team take to the West Leigh Park pitch on Monday.

He said: “I think the FA Cup is probably not as special as what it once was.

“I remember when I was growing up waiting all day on a Saturday for the cup final to come along.

“The whole build-up was exciting.

“I’ve been to the cup final a few times over the years and seen some great cup ties.

“I think the Premier League has taken over in terms of the revenue it can bring in and what it leads to, particularly with the Champions League places.

“I know some clubs underestimate it because of the significance of the bigger picture.

“But think the FA Cup in general is a great competition.

“You ask any player who is involved in this first round this weekend...they will be loving 
it.

“I think at this stage it is still a very special competition.

“Players know there is the potential to get through to the second and third rounds and draw a really big club.

“That is what everybody plays for.

“Obviously this season’s competition started probably in July with all the qualifying rounds, so it is a great competition.

“Hopefully we can have a very good run in it this season.”

Meanwhile, Grayson revealed that injured trio – Bailey Wright, Calum Woods and Andy Little – are unlikely to figure on Monday.

All three have been out of the first team picture in recent weeks, with Wright undergoing an operation on his groin, while Little and Woods have been struggling with calf and hamstring niggles 
respectively.

“The medical team were really happy with how Bailey’s operation went,” said 
Grayson.

“He’s doing all his rehab work and we will keep moving him along nicely.

“There is no time scale on it but I would say he’s at least a 
couple of weeks away from 
a return.

“Calum and Andy are making good progress but the fortunate thing for us is that we don’t need to rush them back because of how fit and healthy the squad is.

“If you look the other night, we took 22 players down to Swindon, so we’ve certainly got real strength in depth.”