Luton Town boss Paul Buckle: We are going to go to Norwich City and enjoy it
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Luton Town boss Paul Buckle revealed the FA Cup has a special place in his heart ahead of today’s bid to stun the Canaries.
The Hatters’ chief is no stranger to this stage of the competition after previously guiding Torquay to the fourth round and a notable meeting with Premier League opponents at Bristol Rovers.
“It has been a top competition down the years. That is why I got so excited about it on this latest run,” he said. “Our priority is to get out of the league but as a manager I have done so well in it that it has given me a buzz. At Torquay we got to two fourth rounds, made some money for the club and had great experiences for the players. At Rovers I took them to the third round and (Aston) Villa at home and now for Luton to beat Wolves and then lead the team against Norwich is brilliant.
“We’ll go there and enjoy it. There’s no pressure on us to go and win. All the pressure is on Norwich to win, and win comfortably. It’s important we respect them but not to over-respect them. We have a game plan, of course we do, and it’s vital we try and stay in it for as long as possible.”
Buckle believes Luton’s surprise third round home win against Championship Wolves underlines the threat they can pose and the belief inside the Kenilworth Road camp.
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“We know we are playing a Premier League team but against Wolves we got the balance right,” he said. “Between the realism of who we are playing and not putting too much pressure on ourselves – but at the same time we have our own standards and we played ever so well against Wolves. If we can do that, get to those levels then I will be really happy for the players. I think the fact we are in the fourth round and the quarter-final of the FA Trophy should tell you that we take every game we play very seriously. I am the type of manager who whether it is a reserve, youth or practice match I give everything I have got and I expect my players to do the same.”
Buckle and Norwich counterpart Chris Hughton go back a long way, but the City chief has not been in touch since the draw pitted the two ex-Brentford team mates together.
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“I got a text from him straight after the draw was made, but I’ve not had any texts or phonecalls since,” said Buckle. “It said, ‘Well done mate for getting through, and we look forward to welcoming you to Carrow.’ That was nice of him. He’ll be ready and his team will be ready.”
Luton have turned to Norwich’s East Anglian rivals Ipswich to help prepare for their biggest game of the season with the Hatters using the Championship strugglers training ground. Luton have not played since a goalless Conference Premier draw at AFC Telford on January 15 due to the recent cold snap, but Buckle feels that could work in their favour.
“I know Mick (McCarthy) and he has been good to me in the past. We trained at Wolves once when he was manager there,” he said. “It was a late shout but they have helped us out and we really needed this preparation as we are playing a Premier League side. I think we’ll have enough sessions to go and do ourselves justice. We found it difficult to get a quality surface to train on here. I want the players to experience that to give ourselves every chance because I like to be as professional as I can.”
Luton’s continued progress in cups this season, allied to the adverse weather, is likely to place a huge strain on the Hatters’ promotion bid.
Buckle’s men arrive at Carrow Road one point out of the Conference play-offs as they bid to avoid a repeat of Wembley play-off final heartache against York last season following two previous near misses.
“Being a victim of your own success is a worry but I would rather have it that way round. I wouldn’t swap it for the world,” said Buckle. “On Saturday afternoon when my players come out of the tunnel at Carrow Road I wouldn’t swap that for the world. As a manager and as players I want us to have those moments.
“Our club is a famous club, it was brilliant to have a fixture like Luton versus Wolves and now to follow that with Luton versus Norwich. We’ll deal with that run of probably playing Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday now at times for the rest of the season. I had that in my first season at Torquay.
“I have not even been at Luton a year yet so it is early days for me. I feel now the squad is coming together. We have a lot of games to fit in but if we can do ourselves proud on Saturday that will serve us well for the second half of the season which is going to be huge for us.”