John Coleman says facing Leeds United on Saturday in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup is a reward for the Accrington Stanley fans.
The Reds have struggled in League One this season and the Reds boss admits that it’s been a tough one so far for the supporters.
However the cups have brought Stanley joy this season – also reaching the semi-finals of the Papa Johns Trophy – and the visit of Premier League Leeds United to the Wham Stadium on Saturday, live on BBC1 at 12.30pm, will be another special day in the Reds’ history.
“The fans need paying back for the way they have supported us through thick and thin this season,” said Coleman.
“We haven’t been great this season, we have been decimated with injuries, but the lads have done the best they can, they have worked their socks off, playing against some big teams in this league, and our fans haven’t wavered in their support.
“That tells you about the character of our fans and this is a little reward for them, that we get a Premier League team to pit our wits against and hopefully we will give a good account of ourselves and make them proud.
“You just take it in your stride. We have had some big games here and we have always done well in those games, we have not always won them but we have acquitted ourselves well.”
Stanley have had some special days in the FA Cup – Huddersfield and Bournemouth in 2003 which helped the Reds go full-time and Fulham in 2010 at the Wham Stadium.
“The pitch and dressing rooms are better than 2010!” said Coleman. “The whole infrastructure of the ground is a lot better.
“Playing Leeds is probably one of the most glamorous games in the club’s history but we have had some crackers here and big disappointments.
“One of my big moments was when we drew at Bournemouth in 2003, and I went over to clap the fans. I had a lump in my throat to see how many had travelled down and the delight on their faces.
“Then Paul Howarth’s penalty was special against Bournemouth at home. We wouldn’t be here today without that FA Cup run, I love this competition.
“I think of Saturday as a day to celebrate for the fans, they deserve it for sticking with us.”
Leeds are 15th in the Premier League table, with American Brenden Aaronson costing around £25m and striker Rodrigo around £26m
“They are a very good team, especially going forward,” said Coleman. “But we know that Crawley put them out a couple of seasons ago, I know it’s a different team, but we know the institution that is Leeds can be beaten.
“It’s great that it’s on BBC1. I go back to the Huddersfield game in 2003 – in fact we showed the lads the game before we faced Crawley this season and Andy Gouck’s unbelievable goal.
“Sky was in its infancy then but 10 times more people watch Accrington v Huddersfield on BBC than Liverpool v Man United which was live on Sky. This will go world wide and it’s a chance for our lads to showcase their talents.
“We know there will be a big focus on us but why not embrace it? Go out and do your best is all we ask for and in the main we can’t grumble with the effort.”
As well as the long-term injuries, defender Michael Nottingham won’t be fit for Leeds but striker Aaron Pressley is being monitored.
The full pre-match interview with John Coleman is available to watch on the club's official YouTube channel, CLICK HERE to find out more!