Grant McCann urges Hull City players to ‘enjoy’ Chelsea tie

Hull City manager Grant McCann.
Hull City manager Grant McCann.
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Hull City will rest players for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Chelsea, but coach Grant McCann expects those on the pitch to go full throttle for victory.

As a team on the fringes of the Championship’s promotion picture, McCann admits the Tigers’ over-riding priority will be Tuesday’s league visit of Huddersfield Town.

While his weekend selection will reflect that, he is anxious to avoid anything half-hearted or over-cautious from those that play.

“It’ll be difficult,” says McCann of a fourth-round tie which pits him against former West Ham United team-mate Frank Lampard. “It was three years ago when we played them at this stage with Peterborough.

“It was a good game at Stamford Bridge and we ran them very close. Antonio Conte was the manager then.

“This is going to be a difficult game and we just have to try and give everything we have and get onto the front foot and cause them problems.”

A Chelsea team featuring John Terry – who was sent off – and Cesc Fabregas were 4-1 winners in 2017, and while McCann insists he cannot learn too much from it, he is clear about the mindset his players need.

“It was a different team, a different style, it was just the quality,” he reflects. “Any mistake, they’ll punish you.

“That happens in the Championship but this is a different level so you have to be switched on for the 95, 96 minutes.

“You’ve just got to go for it. My experience of the FA Cup is that you don’t get too far if you just sit back and wait for things to happen, definitely against Chelsea.

“I watched the (third-round) game against Forest and they had 76 per cent of the ball. That’s difficult. It’s tiring chasing that ball about.

“I always put pressure on myself for the team to perform so it’s not ‘No pressure’, but it’s, ‘Go and enjoy the game and see what we can do, how far we can go’.

“Me and Cliff (Byrne, McCann’s assistant) went to watch them on Tuesday and it was difficult to try and gauge the game when Arsenal went down to 10 men but the first 20 minutes scared the life out of me! They’re a top team and Frank’s a very good manager.

“Usually you have a better gauge going into a Championship game, but for an FA Cup game I have no idea what way Frank will approach it. Whatever he does it will be strong, because his squad’s very, very strong.

“The style of play won’t change because he hasn’t changed too much from that from the start of the season.”

McCann, who made eight changes for the 3-2 third-round win at Rotherham United, insists his team will be strong too, but it will not be full strength at a sold-out Kcom Stadium.

“I haven’t really settled on the team yet,” he says. “I’ve got a firm idea of what I want to do.

“There will be some changes but it’ll still be a strong team.

“I’ll definite have one eye on Tuesday because it’s a very important game. We’re seven points behind the play-offs now and our focus is to get into the top six, it hasn’t changed.

“It’s a nice distraction. Before the Rotherham game (in round three) I was asked if it was a distraction having won two games and I said no because it was another chance to win another game. This is probably a nice distraction because we’ve lost two games.

“They can enjoy the game, enjoy the occasion, give as much as we can for themselves, for the football club and their families and see where it takes them.

“Don’t think I’m downplaying it or anything, it’s a great occasion for the fans and the players. The FA Cup’s a really tremendous competition and one that I’ve always enjoyed.

“It’s a good game for the football club and a good game for the boys. Whatever XI takes to the field can put themselves in lights.”

Hull will be without the injured Matthew Pennington, Jordy de Wijs, Callum Elder, Kevin Stewart and Jon Toral, and may not risk Stephen Kingsley, even though the left-back has returned to training.

But McCann has completed his January transfer window business early, provided – as he hopes – he is able to keep hold of top-scorer Jarrod Bowen.

“We’re really just focused on the outs, David (Milinkovic) and Marcus (Henriksen) are the two that spring to mind,” says McCann. “There are no takers at this present time.

“I think there’s interest in both, but not that’s right for this football club as yet. I imagine something will happen.

“I don’t believe (there have been any formal bids for Bowen). Nothing’s come to me.

“As is well publicised, there was an improved (contract) offer made to Jarrod and his representatives (by Hull), so we’re just waiting to hear back from that.

“I haven’t sat with Jarrod, it’s really down to the representatives and the football club to get to the bottom of that. We just focus on the football.”