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Steve Evans came close to the biggest FA Cup upset of all when Crawley Town took on Manchester United and believes the competition remains special

Gillingham boss Steve Evans insists the FA Cup remains special.

Many of the top teams are fielding weakened teams in the competition but Evans – who twice took former club Crawley to the fifth round – isn’t expecting Saturday’s opponents Sunderland (1pm kick-off) to do so.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans hoping to pull off an upset this weekend in the FA Cup Picture; Ady Kerry
Gillingham manager Steve Evans hoping to pull off an upset this weekend in the FA Cup Picture; Ady Kerry

The Gills, who are planning to train at Newcastle today (Friday), won’t be fancied by many when they head up to the Stadium of Light to take on the two-time FA Cup winners.

Evans said: “Immediately after the draw you think, ‘wow, tough’. Everyone outside of Gillingham will be thinking we’re going to go out. We will be big underdogs.

“They have got back to a good bit of form under Phil Parkinson (who was appointed Sunderland boss three weeks ago, following the sacking of Jack Ross).

“They will be at full strength I am sure. They will be as eager to win as we are and it will be keenly contested.

“The FA Cup is always brilliant, it’s special, a fantastic competition. I have been there in the first qualifying round back in the day at Stamford and I’ve been in the fifth round at Old Trafford. It’s always great.

“Going to the Stadium of Light is great any time. I’ve been to watch under-23 games and that over the years. It’s always a brilliant place to go.

“I was very fortunate when big Sam (Allardyce) was the manager to be invited up there a few times as his guest.

“Peterborough are the only team I have taken there. We drew but should have won!”

Gillingham reached the fourth round of the FA Cup last season, losing out to Swansea City Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham reached the fourth round of the FA Cup last season, losing out to Swansea City Picture: Ady Kerry

One of Evans’ highlights in management was taking non-league Crawley to play Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2011. Alex Ferguson’s side were top of the Premier League but were fortunate to win 1-0.

“In the second half we were banging on the door,” Evans recalled.

“We hit the bar and the post. They had a few off the line. I can remember Sir Alex saying to (assistant) Mike Phelan, ‘if they score, they’ll beat us’ and there were a few expletives in that sentence. We probably would have done. That is the FA Cup, they are the type of days that make it magical.

“I have been in front of 200 fans in the early qualifying round and you should never forget what the FA Cup means.

“Maybe the influx of managers from overseas has devalued it a bit, which is unfair, really, but the best British managers, the likes of Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) and Sean Dyche (Burnley), still treat it with the respect that it should always have.

“It is a competition that is revered in world football.

“We are not going to win the FA Cup but like every other team you hope to have a run in it, like Gills did last year beating Cardiff. Those are special days.

“We want to be coming back from Sunderland on Saturday looking forward to the draw in the next round.”

Defender Barry Fuller is back in contention this weekend as is young goalkeeper Joe Walsh, who missed out last weekend after a training ground knock to the face.


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