Friday, 7 January 2011

Grayson insists league the priority

Manager Simon Grayson would rather see Leeds United defeat Scunthorpe in the Championship next week than glamour side Arsenal in tomorrow’s FA Cup third round tie at the swanky Emirates Stadium.

And if Leeds do manage to pull off an unlikely victory over the Gunners, Grayson won’t rate the feat as highly as last season’s 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford at the same stage of the competition.

Grayson has immense respect for the achievements of Arsenal and their manager Arsene Wenger but he insists promotion to the Premiership is more important than an FA Cup run.

“The game against Scunthorpe is far more important to us because we want to win promotion and play in the Premiership on a week to week basis,” he said. “We have nothing to lose this weekend because no-one expects us to beat Arsenal.

“Of course it would be a fantastic achievement to beat them but the win over Manchester United last year probably meant more to the fans and the club. We were in League One at the time and the rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United has always been intense.

“The Manchester United fans still sing songs about Leeds United in a not very nice manner, but they don’t do that at Arsenal. “ Grayson added: “We will be playing one of the best teams in the world, never mind Europe, but our players can go out and express themselves and enjoy the experience, no matter what team Arsene Wenger decides to pick.

"He can put out three teams packed with internationals but if we can perform to the best of our ability, like we did last year, have a bit of luck and Arsenal under-achieve we might have a chance.

“Bookmakers don’t get it wrong too often and we are 12-1 to win down there. The FA Cup is noted for surprise results, there will be many shocks this weekend and hopefully ours will be one of them.

“We are a long way off getting into the Premiership but the game against Arsenal is a test of what we can do. I have told the players to look at themselves in the mirror the next morning and have no regrets over what they could have done.”

Grayson says he is delighted that Arsenal have decided Sanchez Watt can play against them if selected. Watt is on a season-long loan from the Gunners and they have waived the right to prevent him from playing in the cup-tie.

Grayson beamed: “Hopefully Sanchez doesn’t play too well or they will want to take him back!”

Watt is expected to recover from a head injury in time to be considered for selection. Andy O’Brien should also be fit after suffering a ‘dead leg’ at Cardiff on Tuesday night but Lloyd Sam’s thigh injury is likely to keep him out. Ben Parker is also a doubt after making his long-awaited comeback at Cardiff.

United and Arsenal have now been drawn together six times in the FA Cup since Allan Clarke’s header took the Cup to Leeds in 1972 at Arsenal’s expense.

The Gunners have dominated most of the meetings, Leeds’ only FA Cup triumph since 1972 coming in a fourth round tie in 1997 when Rod Wallace’s goal gave manager George Graham his first win at Highbury since his sacking by the North London club.

The last FA Cup-tie between the sides saw Arsenal triumph 4-1 in the third round at Elland Road six years ago, Thierry Henry scoring one goal and having a hand in three others.

Doubtless Grayson will be happy to avoid the kind of 7-0 drubbing Leeds suffered at Highbury in a League Cup second round replay in 1979 when Jimmy Adamson was in charge.

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