KARL ROBINSON COLUMN: A special competition and a preparation with a difference

THE FA Cup is a very special competition and we can’t wait to take on Forest Green Rovers at home this afternoon.

I remember vividly watching the Cup final at home as a kid and actually going to the final in 1989 to support Liverpool.

My dad was at Hillsborough for the semi-final so there is a massive emotional connection to the competition in our family.

I like to do things a little differently in the build up to the Cup if I can.

It was fantastic to go to St George’s Barracks near Bicester this week and meet up with the DEMS Batallion who do amazing work all over the world.

We had a tour in the morning and I found it fascinating to hear how matter of fact they all were about risking their lives to protect other people.

Don’t ever talk to me about footballers being heroic – there are plenty of genuine heroes out there in the real world.

It was also a chance to do a bit of team bonding.

In the afternoon we had teams competing in exercises based on what the trainees would usually be doing.

One group were made to use detectors in a giant sand pit and then had to throw a light stick to mark the spot.

Watching Scott Shearer move other people’s markers when their backs were turned was just hysterical!

Alongside that, another group were taking charge of the remote control bomb disposal robots.

We made that competitive as well and they all put £10 in with the fastest driver nominating the charity the money would go to.

Credit to winner Rob Dickie who immediately chose the Royal British Legion. The right answer.

The best entertainment was next door though where the players were blindfolded and then had to negotiate a series of cages and mazes, deprived of any light at all.

I was in stitches seeing them work out how to get round the see-saws, slides and tunnels, helping each other along the way.

It was a terrific day and ended with the laying of a wreath to mark those who gave their lives for their country 100 years ago.

Again, the players had total respect and were impeccably behaved for what was a very touching ceremony.

I would like to thank everyone at DEMS for what turned out to be a brilliant day, and one we hope has brought us that bit closer together as we prepare for what I am sure will be another terrific game in the FA Cup.

IT’S our second cup game of the week after the Checkatrade Trophy win at Wycombe on Tuesday.

We played very well that night, but I think the most promising thing was seeing Aaron Heap and Harvey Bradbury come on in the closing stages, two very talented young footballers with bright futures.

They are the latest players to step up from the academy, which is doing great work.

Can I urge fans to come along and support the under 18s on Wednesday night when they take on Barnet in the FA Youth Cup at Oxford City’s Court Place Farm.

It will be a good match and you will be looking at some of the future stars of the first team.