Last year Alan Smith watched QPR host MK Dons on TV, now he wants to help the Dons claim a Premier League scalp...
When the Dons last played Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road last year little did they know their performance would persuade a former England international to give up the dizzy heights of the Premier League to become part of the project at Milton Keynes.
In January 2012 MK Dons made the trip to W12 for their FA Cup third round replay after the R’s had forced a rematch with a 1-1 draw at stadiummk. The replay was shown live on television and one keen viewer that night was Alan Smith.
The Dons earned an array of plaudits that night, despite bowing out to a brave 1-0 defeat, and it was a performance that encouraged Smith to embark on his first loan spell, little did he know he would depart Newcastle for good in the summer to make his stay at MK1 permanent.
“It was the QPR game at Loftus Road last year that I watched on the telly and knew I wanted to come here. The lads played really well that day and I was really impressed. When I knew there was a possibility of coming to Milton Keynes I didn’t have any hesitation because I was really impressed with the lads.”
Smith played a pivotal role in setting up this season’s FA Cup with Budweiser fourth round encounter against QPR with two excellent performances in the third round against Sheffield Wednesday. Even Wednesday boss Dave Jones admitted it was the former Manchester United striker who had dictated play.
Now Smith hopes the Dons can build on that victory by causing an upset against QPR, who may well be distracted by their fight against relegation.
He added: “I think our last two performances in the FA Cup against Sheffield Wednesday were some of our best this season. Going to QPR will be a big test for us on Saturday but we are probably looking forward to it a little bit more than them because they have different things to concentrate on like bringing players in and trying to stay in the Premier League. Hopefully they will have one eye on that and we can sneak in and get a result.
“It will be strange playing back-to-back FA Cup games because the game at Crewe was called off due to the weather. We will go there and enjoy it because we’re under no pressure, we’re under no illusions that we are going there as underdogs in everybody eyes, but in our eyes we are going there to try and cause an upset.”
The biggest question for the Dons is who will Harry Redknapp name in his side? The former Spurs manager has an array of talent to choose from but with their Premier League status still to play for Redknapp may opt to rest some of his bigger names, including new striker Loic Remy.
“I think it’s important that you keep momentum going if you can, it will be interesting to see what team Harry decides to pick, I know he won’t want to pick up any injuries because they have some important League games coming up. But if you can get a settled team that plays consistently it is likely to improve and get results, which will breed confidence.
“Over the past few weeks they have got some good results and they have managed to pick up points against some big teams. Harry has found out who his characters are in the dressing room and they are the ones who can inspire. It will be interesting for us to go and pit our wits against a team who are progressing and building in confidence, but we can go there and just enjoy it.
“I would have though he will want to play Loic Remy just to get him to play another game with his new team-mates and help build some stability. We have watched their game against West Ham and they defended so well, people were putting their bodies on the line for the manager and that is one thing Harry always does, he finds out who the characters are, who wants to play for him.”
The Dons’ FA Cup campaign has been a rollercoaster ride this year. They were held by Cambridge City in the first round before recording a romping 6-1 win in the replay, came up against AFC Wimbledon in the second round, and beat Sheffield Wednesday in a replay in the third round.
“It’s been a great FA Cup for us, the first game against Cambridge was a strange one for everyone involved but it’s been good because some of the younger lads have played and Dele (Alli) scored his goal.
“We then had the small matter of playing AFC Wimbledon which was a great occasion for everyone. Despite what people made of it, I think the game ran as smoothly as it possibly could and it was a credit to our Club, we got the result that all the fans and players wanted.
“Sheffield Wednesday were a team that we hadn’t beaten before so that was another step in the right direction and now we’re in the fourth round for the first time so it has been a good FA Cup so far for us and long may that continue.”