Ryan Leonard is eagerly anticipating Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final contest with Brighton & Hove Albion at The Den, claiming that it is imperative that the players put in a solid display against their Premier League opponents.
Leonard has featured in every previous round of the competition as Millwall overcame the challenges of Hull City, Everton and AFC Wimbledon, and says he is relishing the occasion but also concentrated on the task at hand.
“Games like Sunday will be one of those where I come and think ‘wow, what an occasion’,” the midfielder says.
“If it’s anything like the Everton game a couple of rounds ago, it will be one hell of a game. I remember looking round to someone about 25 minutes in against Everton and just appreciating the atmosphere that was being created.
“If we can focus and put on a display like back then, we can do something special. We want to give the fans a performance to get behind us, which is the most important thing.”
Leonard admits the tie ranks as one of the biggest in his career in terms of magnitude, and claims the team must take inspiration from the Everton triumph in the Fourth Round to pit themselves against Chris Hughton’s Brighton side.
“This has to be right up there with the biggest games in my career so far.
“I said after Everton that it was probably one of the biggest in my career, with the magnitude of the game and how it turned out.
“I think Sunday will be exactly the same – one of the bigger games that we’ll all ever play in. As players, we have to live as the underdogs, get out there and give it a right go, and see what we can do.”
The 26-year-old looks back on Wednesday night’s Sky Bet Championship win at Birmingham City as an encouraging foundation on which to take confidence towards Sunday.
“In the League, we’re at the end of the table that we don’t want to be, and going into Wednesday night we had to get a result against a tough team,” Leonard explains.
“Birmingham are very good going forward, and we knew how they were going to play. So, we knew we had to get a result not just for our League position with no Championship game for two-and-a-half weeks, but also for momentum going into Sunday.
“A great performance from every single player on that pitch in the week shows what we can do, and we can bring that into Sunday and go from there.”