FA Cup third round preview: Huddersfield boss Danny Cowley reveals how they achieved giant killings at Lincoln

Danny Cowley knows all about FA Cup giant killings.

The 41-year-old, currently in charge of Huddersfield Town, guided non-league Lincoln to the quarter-finals in 2016/17, beating second-tier Ipswich and Brighton and Premier League outfit Burnley before losing out to Arsenal.

Even at the Emirates, the fifth-tier side kept Arsene Wenger's men out for 45 minutes before the Gunners' class showed and they eventually ran out 5-0 winners.

But it was the manner of their performances and victories over superior opposition in the previous rounds which saw Danny and brother Nicky really make headlines.

The FA Cup is all about shocks and giant killings but the difference in money and class across the divisions makes it an even bigger task in today's game. So, how did they do it?

"We have lived as underdogs pretty much for all of our lives, so it's a story I know well," the Terriers boss exclusively told Sporting Life, referring to their rise up the football pyramid.

"I always think that being an underdog is like starting at the bottom of a mountain. I remember someone said to us before the Burnley game that it was impossible - and I think I said that impossible is just an opinion.

"I just think you start at the bottom of a mountain and, if you look up, it looks a pretty sizeable task so you have to chunk it, divide it into small, achievable targets and we would chunk the game.

Danny Cowley (left) and Sean Dyche on the touchline during an FA Cup match in 2017
Danny Cowley (left) and Sean Dyche on the touchline during an FA Cup match in 2017

"We played Ipswich in the third round and broke it down into four 22-minute periods, we got to Brighton and went into 15-minutes and once we got to Burnley I think it got to nine or ten-minute periods. We just tried to chunk the game tactically and kept trying to achieve each ten minute target.

"Once we did that, certainly once we got to about 80 minutes and we achieved eight out of eight of the targets you naturally gain a confidence. I think by doing that, you make them into smaller, shorter games and you've got a much better chance of winning.

"When there's a difference in the level of the two teams, if you make it a shorter game then you give yourself a much better chance of getting on the right side of it.

"That was the plan, but like always the plan is the plan and it's the players who have to implement that plan. Throughout that cup run, the group were just incredible. Unbelievable in their ability to keep adding to the level of their performance and the overachieving in their level of performance. It takes a certain type of character and certain type of group to be able to do that.

"We were very fortunate to be part of a team that carried those qualities at Lincoln."

'Momentum carries confidence'

Danny Cowley with the Checkatrade Trophy
Danny Cowley with the Checkatrade Trophy

That cup run was no coincidence, either. As the Imps secured a return back to the EFL later that season, they followed it up with a Football League trophy victory the following season before winning the Sky Bet League Two title in 2018/19.

"I think momentum is always important in football, whether it is going for you as we experienced pretty much in the first 12 years of our career at Concord, then Braintree and Lincoln. Then to come to Huddersfield and have the opposite, where there's negative momentum and you've got to try and turn it around.

"Momentum carries confidence, so when it's positive and going for you then it can be very powerful. But, likewise, when it's in the reverse it can be very difficult and these are all the challenges that you have to experience if you want to be successful in football.

"I always really respect the managers that have stood the test of time in football because it is such a brutal industry and if you want to do that you have to be able to come through so many different challenges."

On coming up against Wenger and Dyche as a non-league boss

Arsene Wenger and Danny Cowley meet at the Emirates in 2017
Arsene Wenger and Danny Cowley meet at the Emirates in 2017

As recently as 2013, former teachers Danny and Nicky Cowley took PE students to the World Schools Athletics Championships in Prague.

Just four years later they found themselves on the touchline alongside Chris Hughton, Sean Dyche and then the hugely experienced and vastly decorated Wenger.

“That cup run was brilliant,” he continued.

“For everyone associated with Lincoln City, it will be something that lives long in our memory.

“It was a brilliant moment and we learnt loads from Sean Dyche, he is an incredible man. Very strong-willed, able to create a brilliant environment for his players, real hardworking, humble environment where the players have to strive to be the best every day.

“He’s got a unique presence about him, a clear communicator that says it how it is, complete clarity and complete honesty which I think good people are really inspired by.

“We spent 90 minutes with Arsene Wenger after the game and for us it was an invaluable time.

“He’d had a difficult week because leading into that game they had lost 5-0 to Bayern Munich in midweek and we were 0-0 in 45 minutes in that match. It had been a really difficult week for him, yet he was so willing to give up his time.

“You could just see his love for the game and, after the period he had and he was getting difficult press at the time, he still spoke so fondly and with so much love for the game and that really shone through.

“It was great to speak to him – about periodisation, training weeks, schedules, team selection, training methods and it was a really enjoyable period.

“We took loads from it and we will be forever appreciative off the time both [Wenger and Dyche] gave to us.”


Southampton v Huddersfield: Sporting Life betting insight for FA Cup third round clash

Danny Cowley during his first Huddersfield training session
Danny Cowley during Huddersfield training

The Cowleys have collected seven wins and six draws since arriving at Huddersfield in September, steering them out of the relegation zone.

The Terriers travel to Southampton on Saturday, a Premier League side whose recent form has improved to take them up to 12th, but rotation could easily disrupt their flow and seeing Ralph Hasenhuttl's side crash out here would be no great surprise.

The visitors are a tempting 13/2 to win but goals have proved be an issue for the Terriers which is why we will avoid that one.

But, with the Cowleys' segmented approach in mind to nullify the opposition, backing a half-time draw at around 7/5 looks well worth considering - or a draw at 30 minutes at just under evens. Huddersfield will be no pushovers.

Best bet: Half-time draw at 7/5

Opta stats

  • This will be the first ever FA Cup meeting between Southampton and Huddersfield Town, both of whom are winners of the competition in the past – Saints in 1976 and the Terriers in 1922.
  • Southampton are unbeaten in their last five matches against Huddersfield (W2 D3) since losing 0-2 in October 2010 in a League One meeting.
  • Southampton haven’t been eliminated in the FA Cup third round in consecutive seasons since a run of three in a row between 1996-97 and 1998-99.
  • Huddersfield Town are winless in 11 away FA Cup matches against top-flight opponents (D2 L9) since a 2-1 win at Chelsea in January 1964.
  • In domestic cup competitions (FA/League Cup), Huddersfield have been eliminated from their last eight ties against Premier League sides since winning 2-1 against Birmingham at the John Smith’s Stadium in January 2008 in the FA Cup.

Saturday's FA Cup betting preview

FA Cup round three is upon us, with Premier League and Championship teams now involved. George Pitts looks for value and potential upsets.

Check out our preview of Saturday's action in the third round of the FA Cup
Check out our preview of Saturday's action in the third round of the FA Cup

FA Cup outright preview

Paul Higham takes a look at the FA Cup outright market and fancies Leicester to make a huge challenge, along with a big run for David Moyes' West Ham.

Read our FA Cup outright preview with our pick for the 2020 winner
Read our FA Cup outright preview with our pick for the 2020 winner

This Manager's Life with Danny Cowley: Watch the full interview here as Huddersfield Town boss discusses his rise up the Football League and unique management experience

Sporting Life sat down with Danny Cowley to talk all things management - from his rise up the Football League to advice from Arsene Wenger.

Danny Cowley watches over training
Danny Cowley watches over training

Odds correct as of 1400 GMT on 02/01/20

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