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Serie A heavyweights head-to-head

50-50 Challenge 2 days ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 3, 2009

Big Sam keen to avoid Blyth's FA Cup banana skin

Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce is calling on his Premier League stars to match the passion of non-league Blyth Spartans in Monday's FA Cup third round tie at Croft Park.

The north-east minnows are no strangers to cup shocks, having reached the third round for the fifth time, and they have their sights set on the biggest scalp in their history.

Allardyce, who vividly remembers what it is like to lose to a part-time outfit from his playing days with Millwall, is urging his players to avoid the ultimate embarrassment.

''It will be passionate, it's a passionate area and they will want to come and see a Premier League club slip up,'' said the former Newcastle and Bolton boss.

''We have to take the surroundings and the atmosphere and use that as a positive.

''We're here to get ourselves into the fourth round of the FA Cup and make sure that we don't slip up or suffer an embarrassment that the wrong result would bring us. It would be an embarrassment if we didn't get through.

''I was at Millwall when we lost to Slough in the third round and I remember how bad that felt. None of us want to get knocked out.''

With Premier League survival his priority, Allardyce is prepared to take a gamble by resting several of his senior players for the trip to the north-east.

''As a manager, you've got to make changes and rotate your squad,'' he said. ''This is an ideal situation to rotate your squad against a non-league team.

''We're a group of professionals in the Premier League and we should have enough to beat them but that's going to be down to good preparation and a positive mental attitude on the night.''

One beneficiary of the changes planned by Allardyce will be Australia international Vince Grella, who is hoping to put his injury nightmare behind him by making an eagerly-awaited comeback.

The 29-year-old former Torino midfielder has made just four appearances since his move to Ewood Park in August for a reported £4million after being troubled by a calf injury.

But he has been given the green light to return in the cup tie and he is keen to make up for lost time.

''I don't think frustrating is the word,'' he told the club's website, www.rovers.premiumtv.co.uk. ''It's been very, very hard, being over here with my family and trying to help them settle in.

''I've not been much of a helpful husband and dad but I'm hoping to turn that around. I'm still convinced I can do well.

''It got me down because I take a lot of pride in my football. Coming here for me was a big challenge and I can't sit back after the last four months and be happy with the way things gone but I think I can turn it around.

''I have to prove it to myself more than anyone. From what I've seen of the manager, I think I can do a good job for him.''

Meanwhile, midfielder David Dunn could be back in action by the end of the month after encouraging scans on his injured hamstring.

When Dunn limped out of the goalless draw with Sunderland on Boxing Day, it was feared he would be sidelined for a considerable length of time.

But Allardyce said: ''The news is better than we first thought. It could be two or three weeks.''

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