Uni boss eyes Cup glory

Loughborough University head coach Stuart McLaren believes his students can become history boys ahead of the side’s FA Cup Preliminary Round tie with Clipstone.

Loughborough came back from two goals down against Shirebrook Town with six minutes remaining in the previous round, before prevailing 2-1 in the replay, to set up a tie with the Northern Counties East League Division One side.

Having kept their Cup hopes alive, McLaren – who was part of the Stirling Albion giant-killing team who reached the Scottish League Cup quarter-finals in the 1997-98 season – believes the University’s reputation for breeding future talent can continue in the 143-year-old competition.

Clipstone v Loughborough University

The FA Cup Preliminary Round
3pm, Saturday 30 August 2014
The Lido Ground

“We’ve had several graduates over the years who have gone on to become household names in English football, such as Laurie Sanchez, Dario Gradi and Bob Wilson. All our players are aged between 18 and 23, and this is a great opportunity for these young men to create history,” McLaren told TheFA.com.

The University has yet to progress beyond the First Qualifying Round under McLaren, who joined Loughborough in 2011 following a managerial spell in his native Australia, but that does not deter the former Brisbane Strikers midfielder from aiming to emulate FC Bath’s achievement of becoming the first university team to reach the FA Cup First Round since 1880, over a decade ago.

“That’s the dream,” said McLaren, whose side plays in the Midland Football League Premier Division. “We want to fly the flag for university football. According to the football pyramid, we’re a level above Clipstone, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that these are very fine margins – especially when it comes to the Cup.”

Being one round closer to a trip to Wembley is motivation enough for McLaren’s hungry crop of players to steer clear of the SU bar, but he explained to TheFA.com both the challenges and incentives of coaching a university side.

“With term time still over a month away, it’s been tough assembling a competitive squad for the early weeks of the new campaign. Many of last year’s players have either been on holiday or are in summer jobs to fund their studies!

“Whereas the prize money of progressing in the Cup throws many sides a financial lifeline, we are very fortunate in that we have first class playing facilities at Loughborough.

“We are always grateful for a good Cup run though, as the win bonus would go towards match day hospitality and funding coaches for away games. You can imagine the difference it can make to poor students!”