manager Grant McCann is hoping to reach a personal milestone today and take Doncaster Rovers into the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Thirty-eight-year-old McCann, who was not even born when Doncaster last reached the fifth-round stage in 1956, has never been beyond the fourth round as either a player or manager.
In a career that started at West Ham United in the Nineties before spells at Barnsley, Scunthorpe United and Cheltenham Town, the Northern Ireland international played at Wembley in the end-of-season play-offs.
But the furthest he got on the ‘road to Wembley’ in the FA Cup came 12 months ago.
Then, as Peterborough United manager, his Posh side were thumped 5-1 by Leicester City in a televised fourth-round tie.
Today his Rovers side will face League Two outfit Oldham Athletic at a packed Keepmoat Stadium – the fourth FA Cup meeting in the last seven seasons between the two teams – and McCann is relishing the challenge.
“As a player I never got past the third round; as a manager I have never got past the fourth round,” he said.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about the football club getting to a stage where they haven’t been for 50 years, giving the fans a good day (in the fifth round) against one of the big teams.
“But we know we have to do a job first against Oldham. It’s not going to be straightforward, it’s going to be difficult.
“I had a good run as a manager last year. Obviously we got battered by Leicester live on TV, which wasn’t nice.”
Giving the fans a good day (in the fifth round) against one of the big teams. But we know we have to do a job first against Oldham.Grant McCann
McCann was in the Barnsley team that beat Blackpool in the third round in 2008. But the midfielder had left for Scunthorpe as his former Tykes team-mates went on to beat Liverpool at Anfield and Chelsea at Oakwell, before falling to Cardiff City in the semi-finals.
“I am looking forward to it because the FA Cup is a special tournament,” said McCann.
“There will be a big crowd here, and the boys will enjoy the environment, and the pressure of it.
“It’s a chance to get to the fifth round and hopefully draw one of the big boys. Oldham will be thinking exactly the same.
“This is our home, we’ve been very good here all season and we need to make sure that we keep doing what we’re doing here.
“We’ve turned the Keepmoat Stadium into a place that teams don’t want to visit.
“There’s going to be a big crowd here and the boys will enjoy the environment and the pressure of it.”
Both Rovers and Oldham caused Cup upsets in the previous round. League One promotion-chasers Rovers beat Championship side Preston at Deepdale, while Oldham knocked out Premier League strugglers Fulham.
“They’ve got the confidence of beating Fulham in the third round, but we’re at home and we want to make a point that whoever comes here we’ll give them a good game, whether that be Oldham or Man United,” said McCann, whose side have been drawn away in the three previous rounds.
They needed a replay against Chorley Town – after a fortunate 2-2 draw at the non-league side – before beating Charlton and Preston away.
McCann said: “No one gave us a chance at Preston. Oldham are probably thinking the same, ‘no-one is giving us a chance at Doncaster’. But I am not that silly.
“I know it’s an even game. You saw the Chorley game, how lucky were were to come away with a 2-2 draw at Chorley. We know how tough it’s going to be.”
For midfielder Ali Crawford it is a first taste of FA Cup football after a summer move from Scotland. The 27-year-old former Hamilton man is hoping Doncaster – just a point outside the League One play-off spots – can juggle involvement in both competitions.
“The Cup run has helped take our mind off the league,” said Crawford. “It didn’t start too well at Chorley, but thankfully we got through that.
“We then had a tough away game at Charlton, so we deserve to be here. We are here on merit and hopefully we can continue on this cup run.
“We want to stay in the cup as long as possible, but the league is your bread and butter.”
With Andy Butler suspended, centre-back Paul Downing is set to go straight into the side after joining on loan from Blackburn Rovers.
“He’s very experienced in this league,” said McCann. “He has been in the play-offs before with Walsall, he was in a promotion-winning side at Blackburn last year. He played a huge chunk of games for them last year.
“Paul brings us real experience and composure at this level. It’s an excellent signing for us.
“We need competition, we have it all over the pitch, but the one area where we didn’t have it was the centre-half position. Now it gives us good options.”