Stuart Pearce is convinced Manchester City’s travelling army can prove decisive in the Blues’ bid to reach the FA Cup sixth round for only the third time in 25 years.
Despite the inconvenient 6.30pm kick-off against Aston Villa on Sunday, Pearce’s men will be backed by more than 5,000 fans eager to see whether their side can put some poor recent away form behind them and advance into the last eight.
Pearce believes the number of supporters willing to spend the evening on the road underlines the hunger for success at the Eastlands outfit, who have not won a major honour since their League Cup triumph over Newcastle in 1976.
The former England skipper feels the noise floating out of the visiting end will generate a positive atmosphere for his side, which could ultimately lead to victory.
“The fans might just be able to turn this into a home game for us,” Pearce told www.mcfc.co.uk
“We have had a great little run at home and winning those matches means there will be a weight of supporters going down there.
“The FA Cup may have diminished slightly in some quarters but it certainly has not on this side of Manchester, that’s for sure.”
Pearce appeared in two FA Cup finals as a player, losing on both occasions with Nottingham Forest and Newcastle.
But, as so often in recent weeks, his build-up is being overshadowed by talk about the possibility of being headhunted by the Football Association as part of their new coaching set-up to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Pearce insists he lacks the experience for the job although he admits he would talk to FA chief executive Brian Barwick about any role if he was asked.
For their part, City remain relaxed about the situation, fully aware of Pearce’s patriotic nature but also feeling their manager accepts the limited time available in his diary to take on the kind of part-time coaching role, which has been suggested in some quarters today.
Pearce has previously said he believes Steve McClaren’s coaching expertise has only been enhanced by his work with England.
Whether Middlesbrough fans would agree with that is questionable but City bosses are not keen to get involved in discussions over hypothetical matters.
“We have not received an approach from the Football Association and any other speculation regarding Stuart is rampant and unjustified,” said a City spokesman.
However, they have been irritated by suggestions Pearce’s current salary has been estimated at around the £300,000 (€438,200)-a-year mark, which, if true, would almost certainly put the Blues boss bottom of the Premiership manager’s rich-list.
While Pearce is not earning the £1m (€1.5m) per annum commanded by former boss Kevin Keegan, with bonuses, his wages are well above the reported sum and, City believe, reflect his standing as one of the most promising young managers in the game.
Pearce is not the type to let those kind of discussions distract him from the job in hand, namely beating a Villa side whose three home wins in the Premiership this season is exactly the same number as City have achieved on their travels.
City will definitely be without Andy Cole, Nedum Onuoha and Claudio Reyna for the Villa Park encounter and Trevor Sinclair may have to wear a face mask if he is clear to play, but Pearce could have Danny Mills and Ben Thatcher available again after recent injuries, while Stephen Jordan is due to return from suspension.