Chris Hughton will make most of entire Norwich City squad
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Chris Hughton needs no lessons on the romanticism of the FA Cup. But pragmatism will be his guiding principle at Peterborough as he attempts to safeguard the club’s Premier League future.
Hughton the player won two consecutive FA Cups in a stylish Tottenham side.
Hughton the manager aims to plot Peterborough’s downfall this afternoon whilst accepting cup success will not define his Carrow Road tenure.
“It goes without saying it is not our biggest priority. Our main goal is retaining our Premier League status,” he said.
“That is to take nothing away from a very good footballing day. When I say it is not a priority, that isn’t to say that teams do not treat it seriously when it comes around.
“The emphasis is to go through but it is more about our league status. For clubs like ourselves that is a big thing – to make sure we are in the Premier League next season.
“The Championship has never had as many big clubs in it as now so that shows how much emphasis is on league status.
“The game has changed. If we are talking about the FA Cup in days gone by then generally it was about putting out your best XI. We didn’t have so much rotation and that was the norm.
“You played what you felt was your best team most weeks but we are now in an era where you tend to use your squad a little bit more.
“It is always exciting going into a cup competition. It gives you an opportunity to use your squad and most clubs look to do that these days.”
Hughton has already confirmed back-up keeper Declan Rudd will start at London Road. The City youngster is not the only one who will be given a chance to impress on cup duty, with some of the biggest hitters for the Canaries ruled out through injury.
“Yes I will use the squad because we have very good competition and there are players who have been very unfortunate not to play as many games,” said Hughton.
“That is no reflection on their efforts in training or whenever they have been called upon. The difference sometimes between who plays and who doesn’t is not that great. It is a cup competition and we want to make progress, but it won’t be wholesale (changes) as the League Cup.
“I have to take on board a little bit of everything. Perhaps I could make 11 changes, with what we have available, but because of recent results and also the fact we have a week’s recovery until the next game and probably because of the fact we are away, rather than the League Cup when in the first two games we were home which gave us a slight advantage.
“That all has a bearing on it, but I wouldn’t make any change if I didn’t feel either a player deserved it or they are close to being in a best XI.”
Hughton has also factored in the presence of a 5,000 strong travelling support in what could be a rare London Road full house. City’s management and players are not the only ones who who have no desire to be part of an FA Cup giant-killing act on a date in the footballing calendar synonymous with lower league fairytales.
“It is a local derby of sorts and great for our supporters,” he said. “The number of fans going will certainly give us a lift and we have to make sure we put in a performance that gives them something.
“We want to do well for them. We want to go through but it is also a balance you have to strike. Peterborough have picked up of late which makes it a difficult tie.
“Not only have they had some good form but they have beaten some big teams. That makes it an even tougher task.
“These are a good side. I have managed to see them on two or three occasions so I know them very well. Given their budget they do extremely well in that division.
“I know the manager and of course Barry Fry is someone I have known for a number of years. They have brought in some very, very good players from generally the lower leagues and the Conference, but they do extremely well within their budget in a very strong Championship.”
Peterborough’s upward mobility as they attempt to claw themselves to safety contrasts sharply with a festive run for the Canaries that now force Hughton to field inevitable lines of enquiry on the dents to collective confidence.
“Certainly we would rather be winning games but we have a confident group of players,” he said.
“We realise what we have to do to win football matches. What I haven’t been able to do is criticise the endeavour of the lads to get results.
“We have to respect the league we are in and you can’t expect it to go your way all the time. We have had a sticky period, but that is always going to be the ups and downs of this division.
“We managed to accumulate points on that previous run but this has been a real tough four-game period.
“The positives from the games are that they’ve all been close. It is not as if we have been beaten heavily in any of the matches.
“If I look back at the unbeaten run then we have still managed to take some of those positives with us, but we all know it is about getting points. We need to try and get back to that type of form.”