Saturday, January 26, 2013
If the footballing fates had been less kind to him, Elliott Bennett could have been lining up for Luton Town against Norwich in the FA Cup.
Bennett started out at in the same Wolves academy with Hatters’ striker Andre Gray. One path led eventually to the Premier League after enhancing his stock in the lower tiers at places like Bury and Brighton. The other led into non-league and Kidderminster after a release by Shrewsbury.
Bennett’s personal story resonates inside Norwich’s dressing room; which is why the Canaries know what to expect from the Conference play-off hopefuls at Carrow Road.
“Most of our squad have worked our way up and we all know the feeling of what it’s going to be like for Luton,” said Bennett. “That’s why I don’t think it will be that much different for us. It’s another game we all want to win, whether it’s playing against non-league opposition or not, you always want to win football matches and Saturday’s game is no different. The moment your attitude is not right, that’s when you come unstuck. But I think we’ve got a group of players here where that’s never really going to come into question, the attitude of the lads playing against lower league opposition. We have to match their work rate and energy and I hope our quality will be enough to see us through.”
Bennett inspired Chris Hughton’s much-changed line up to an assured third round win at Peterborough that should form the template for their bid to move into the last 16. City’s 3-0 cruise at London Road was notable for the absence of any trace of complacency.
“We’d never think like that because I think, ‘That’s another man in front of me that wants to beat me,’ and if their eleven players are more up for it than us, they could quite easily go through to the next round if we’re not on our game and our attitude is wrong,” he said.
“I’m sure the Aston Villa players weren’t thinking that, coming off the end of a 3-1 defeat at Bradford. On paper you wouldn’t give Bradford a cat-in-hell’s chance, but it’s football and it’s what happens on the day. Bradford fully deserved to go through and we just have to make sure we match Luton and what they are going to bring. It’s whoever wants it more on the day tends to go through.”
Bennett is an eloquent member of City’s first team squad. The midfielder realised the ramifications of a shock defeat to non-league foes would leave an indelible stain on the careers of any of Norwich’s Premier League collective who suffered the misfortune to be involved.
“Losing matches you are going to get slaughtered anyway but I don’t think you can think about that,” he said. “We lost to Liverpool and got absolutely slaughtered as well, bearing in mind they normally finish in the top four.
“When you go into any football match you just have to focus on the job ahead, play our game, match their high energy and tempo and if we turn up on the day and our attitude is right then I’m sure we have to back ourselves to win.
“There is always pressure on you, no matter who you play, because you’ve got the paying fans who want to see their team win and they’re all professionals who want to win, so I think the pressure is always on. It’s a great day for the Luton players who have made it through and played in the Conference all their careers and are playing against Premier League opposition. But I’m sure they won’t be thinking about that by the time the whistle blows and won’t be thinking they’re lower league opposition – just that it’s another team they want to beat.”
Bennett revealed he has had one close shave with the world famous competition during his time on the south coast at Brighton.
“We drew 1-1 at home to FC United and they were non-league. Then we had to go up to Gigg Lane and play them in the replay, which we won 4-0,” he said. “In the first game I missed a penalty so it wasn’t very good. The replay was a Wednesday night at Bury and it was freezing cold but we managed to get through so it ended up being all right.
“We will prepare the same way as we would every other team. We’ll still do our normal meeting on Friday, looking at what Luton offer, some of their weaknesses and how we can target that. We prepare the same for every match – we did against Peterborough, and it’s no different if Manchester United came to Carrow Road, you prepare the same way. Everyone is relishing it and looking forward to getting back out there.”