Friday 21 October 2016

Long FA Cup run is the spur for Ireland's Owen

Colchester United’s Irish star Owen Garvan, pictured here (r) in action against Oldham’s Liam Kelly is relishing tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Picture courtesy of the East Anglian Daily Times.
Colchester United’s Irish star Owen Garvan, pictured here (r) in action against Oldham’s Liam Kelly is relishing tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Picture courtesy of the East Anglian Daily Times.

It will take the players of Tottenham only an hour to drive the 55 miles from their London base to their destination of Colchester for tomorrow's FA Cup tie, but the distance between the two clubs could hardly be greater.

Spurs are a club on the up, their already-buoyant mood significantly improved from banking £12million for the sale of Andros Townsend to a gullible Newcastle earlier this week and they head to Colchester with the status of a club who have a chance, albeit a slim one, of winning the Premier League this season.

For the boys of Colchester United, things are not so sunny. Forget the Champions League, they just want to stay in their division as they're bottom of the League One table, without a league win in over three months.

Their only relief in recent months has come in the FA Cup, Colchester knocking out Championship side Charlton earlier this month and while league safety is their priority, Colchester's Irish midfielder Owen Garvan believes that his side can adopt a twin-approach of trying to progress in the Cup while also attempting to win league games.

"Our manager really respects this competition and wants us to do well," says Garvan, who joined Colchester at the start of the season after spells with Ipswich and Crystal Palace.

"I have played under a lot of managers who would really prefer not to be in the Cup and that was shown with the teams they picked.

"So fair play to our manager who has picked a strong team in every round even though we badly need to win league matches, it's been a long time since Colchester had a top flight team come down here, it will be good for the fans, hopefully we'll give them a win to celebrate and enjoy."

Now 27, former Home Farm man Garvan is one of the few players in the Colchester side with top flight experience as he played in the Premier League for Palace, though his time in that league was largely frustrating as he was left out of the Eagles' 25-man squad for the league season which forced him into a diet of reserve team football and loan spells for the best part of two years.

So Garvan, whose last Premier League start was, fittingly, against Spurs (August 2013), has an idea what will be the mindset of the opposition tomorrow.

"Our problem here is that we have a lot of young lads in the side who haven't played too many games and lack experience," he says.

"The senior players will try and help them through, give them advice. I'd tell them what will be in the minds of the Spurs players, they won't want to come to a place like Colchester and lose to a third-tier team, they will be more nervous than we will. In a game like this, you can't leave anything behind you in the dressing room, you have to give your all and we need to have a go at Spurs.

"In the Premier League, I find that teams stand off each other and let the other team have the ball, it's slow. Down in the lower leagues, it's crash-bang-wallop. I don't think Spurs will be used to that.

"We feel that Spurs will play the same team they had against Leicester in the last round, maybe have some of their regulars on the bench, but that's a gamble for them as if they don't beat us, they'll get stick for not playing their strongest team," added Garvan.

"In our early rounds in the Cup we played non-league teams (Wealdstone, Altrincham), one or two of our players were saying 'we can't lose here to these' as there was that bit of fear factor of being on the wrong end of a shock, and I am 100% sure that Spurs will have the same feeling tomorrow morning, not wanting to lose to a team from a lower league. It will be a tight game that could be decided by whoever has that bit of quality on the day. In my mind it's 50-50."

For Garvan, now in his 11th season of first team football in England, it's a relief to be fit and at a club where he's wanted, as he missed two months of this season due to injury, more frustration after that two-year spell of inactiivty at Palace.

"People do forget about you when you're not playing, and I wasn't playing for a long while, a year and a bit, at Palace. You go off the scene, you have a lot of players who don't get anywhere. I didn't want to just keep waiting and waiting.

"I wanted to get back playing, get back that buzz of playing games at 3pm on a Saturday, so when the option to go to Colchester came my way I grabbed it. I didn't realise how much I missed playing until I was out of things, I was in a rut at Palace because I was just in the reserves and, ultimately, no one cares how you get on in the reserves, it only matters what you do in the first team.

"So I am happy to be back playing, I was unfortunate to be out for two months with injury this season, especially as the manager lost his job in that time. I want to do well tomorrow, it's on the TV, I have friends and family over so hopefully we can get the win. Tottenham are coming to town, no one gives us a chance, I think I am the only one who feels we can get something, hopefully I can prove everyone wrong."

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