How to slay a giant

FA Cup hero Brian Howard counts Liverpool, Chelsea and West Brom among his scalps. Here the midfielder talks FFT through the secrets to causing a major shock

Treat it like any game
"You have to try to prepare as you would for any other match. During Barnsley’s cup run in 2008 there was a real buzz around the town. I was doing loads of interviews, I had people asking for tickets and all this attention can get in your head. But you have to put it to one side and focus on what you have to do."

Showcase your skills
"This is your chance to prove yourself against the big boys. You might only get one opportunity to show you can compete with the best players so take it, don’t waste it. You can be a hero for your team and the town. When I played for Barnsley against Liverpool I knew I was going to be testing myself against the likes of Gerrard and Alonso – I couldn’t wait for that."

More after the break

Belief leads to action
"I remember doing an interview for a newspaper ahead of the Liverpool game and saying a cheesy line like, ‘If I score the winner in the 90th minute it will be a dream come true.’ That positive image gave me the confidence and motivation to realise this dream. Positivity and belief are essential to causing a cup upset. Any team can beat anyone on their day."

The pressure is off
"
No one expects you to win. If you make a mistake, no one gets on your back so you can let the error go. When you’re expected to win and you make a mistake, the pressure builds. The pressure gets in your head – I’ve had that playing lower-league teams that we were expected to roll over. You have to exploit that."

Put the team first

"
You might not be able to match your opponents’ ability, but you can match their workrate. You need leaders on and off the pitch, from the starting XI to the lads on the bench. If you see your mate put his body on the line it inspires you to do it because you don’t want to let him down. No individual can win a game on their own. You’re a team and you’re in it together."

Stick to your plan

“Starting the game brightly is important. Away from home the aim is to frustrate; when you’re at home the aim is to start on the front foot. You don’t want to find yourself chasing a big lead too early. Frustrate the opposition for as long as possible. The pressure will start getting to them. The longer you stay in the game, the more chance you have of hitting them on the break."

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