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FA Cup hype makes Wembley the team to beat

PUBLISHED: 12:24 09 August 2012

Ian Bates

Ian Bates

Archant

The spotlight falls firmly on Wembley’s FA Cup exploits this weekend – but Lions player-manager Ian Bates is forecasting 42 ‘cup finals’ for his team this season.

Vale Farm is poised for a record crowd on Saturday, with ex-internationals such as Ray Parlour, Graeme Le Saux, Brian McBride and Claudio Caniggia available to make their Wembley debuts in the FA Cup extra preliminary round clash with Langford.

The tie, which kicks off at 12.45pm, is being shown live on ESPN as part of tournament sponsors Budweiser’s investment deal with the club and will be simultaneously streamed at www.BudUnited.com.

Budweiser have commissioned an eight-part documentary about the Lions entitled ‘Dream.On. The Journey of Wembley FC’ – which is also airing on ESPN from next week.

Away from the hype, however, Wembley began their Combined Counties League Premier Division campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Raynes Park Vale last weekend – and Bates has already seen enough to know that his side will be marked men this season.

“Teams are going to come out and smash us and we’ve got to stand up to take it,” Bates told the Times. “I looked at the Raynes Park Vale website before the game and they were calling us a scalp.

“That’s what it’ll be like this season – we’ll have 42 cup finals. We’re going to places in a brand new minibus, with brand new kit and everyone looks the part, so there’s expectation that we’ll do well.

“We’ve brought a couple of players in, nothing major, and we’ll be hard to beat – but you’ve still got teams like Windsor, Molesey and Camberley who are going to be strong in this league.

“We want to do well in the FA Cup and see how far we can go in that, but the FA Vase and the league are our main priorities this season. I’d like to finish better than 10th and the top five would be really good.”

Nevertheless, the long-serving Lions midfielder is excited by the prospect of Saturday’s unusual fixture, in which his side will start as favourites against Spartan South Midlands League Division One opposition.

Team selection will be discussed with the club’s technical adviser, former England boss Terry Venables, at tonight’s training session, but Bates is confident that whoever pulls on a Wembley shirt on Saturday will not be fazed by the live TV factor.

“They’ve all had cameras shoved in their faces so much for the documentary that it’s not going to be too distracting!” Bates added. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem managing the situation.

“You’ve got to fit guys in the team and you’ve got to be fair. I’d just say, if you play, enjoy it. We’ve watched Langford, I think they’ll be tough and I wouldn’t have fancied going away at this stage.

“I can only see this being a good thing – it gives players from our level and below the opportunity to compete against people who were stars and, as long as Wembley stay in the competition, the more teams benefit.

“When I first came here, you could go to Vale Farm for a game and there’d be 200 or 300 people, so I’d love to see us get back to that stage and maybe even get the sort of crowds clubs like Wealdstone get.”


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