Luton Town manager Paul Buckle: You’ve got to realise how big FA Cup win over Norwich City is
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Paul Buckle’s first thought was for his friend and football ally Chris Hughton after masterminding Luton’s 1-0 FA Cup fourth round upset against the Canaries.
The Hatters’ chief headed straight towards Hughton at the final whistle in the midst of the bedlam following Scott Rendell’s 80th minute winner at Carrow Road.
“Chris is a good friend. He said some really nice things about me before the game and there’s a real respect there between us,” said Buckle, on his former Brentford team mate. “As always, I know how much it hurts when you lose a game as a manager and I just wanted to pay respect to that.
“I couldn’t stop my staff because they worked their socks off and you’ve got to understand how big this is for our players and our staff.
“Nothing changes for me with Chris Hughton and Paul Trollope and Norwich City football club. The very fact that the Norwich people clapped us off the pitch was incredible, and that’s the way I like to conduct myself. You can only be happy for a minute in this game as a manager.
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“It’s highs and lows and it’s really important to respect the other manager and certainly if I can get anywhere near what Chris has achieved, I’ll be delighted.”
Buckle preferred to deflect praise onto his own players after an inspired late double substitution sunk Norwich when JJ O’Donnell’s cross was despatched by the well-travelled Rendell.
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“I thought Chris might go with the team that beat Peterborough in the last round and it was fairly close,” he said. “I think the strength of their bench showed the respect they paid us. I thought Norwich played their part in the game and had a right go at us. It’s not easy when you play lower league opposition.
“We sometimes struggle at home when a team comes and sits in. But I’d rather speak about the players – they’re the ones that went out there and the subs played a major role as well. Rendell is someone I’ve worked with before. I’ve took him to all three clubs I’ve managed.
“I think he’s a class act in terms of receiving the ball. He does a lot of selfless running for the team, he comes short, which I like, and also his goal record at our level has been phenomenal. Rendell doesn’t need that many chances to put the ball in the back of the net and he proved that.”
Buckle revealed the key was to frustrate their more illustrious opponents in the early exchanges.
“The important thing for us was to stay in the game early on,” he said. “When the game kicked off I could see a massive difference. Norwich played with some real purpose and I thought this was going to be a long afternoon. Certainly getting to half-time at 0-0, it gave us great strength.
“I’m not sure when we saw Grant Holt coming on – we weren’t quite ready for that but Holt coming on maybe lifted the players because it really showed that Norwich meant business. We started the second half well, we scored a brilliant goal and then we were good enough and organised enough to hold on to it.”
Buckle is determined the Conference play-off promotion hopefuls savour an epic FA Cup win against their Premier League hosts.
“The players got it right and I want them to enjoy this,” he said. “I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. It’s an incredible performance by the players. Against Wolves we felt we weren’t lucky when we went through.
“I know Norwich had a couple of good chances in the game, but you would have expected that, and Mark (Tyler) pulled off two good saves. But the most pleasing thing for me was that we defended very well and carried a threat going the other way.
“I’m absolutely delighted for the players and the fans were out of this world. We probably couldn’t have done it without 4,000 travelling supporters.
“We took great strength from the Wolves game. It’s not so long ago Wolves were in the Premier League, and we stuck to the same plan. It’s a lot easier to work in a structure. At our level, and it’s no disrespect to our level, there is a not an awful lot of structure to the game at times. It’s more of a fight.”
The former Torquay and Bristol Rovers chief wants to use an historic cup victory over the Canaries as the springboard to finally plot a return to the Football League, after a trio of play-off near misses culminated in Wembley heartache 12 months ago against York.
“I’m really pleased for the club,” said Buckle. “The club has had some really bad days over the past few years so I’m absolutely thrilled for the board, the fans and the players. I hope this will all make us believe that we’ve got a really, really good squad.
“Because in both games, Wolves and Norwich, there wasn’t a lot of fluke about it – it wasn’t holding on for dear life in both games. I’ve been fortunate in a few years in management to have some good highs and this is right up there. This is an incredible achievement by the players.”