Ellesmere’s Arlen Birch is gunning for a huge FA Cup upset when non-league Chorley take on Derby County on Saturday.

However, the County squad that lines up at Victory Park on Saturday lunchtime will be far different to the one Chorley were originally expecting to face.

The Rams have shut their training ground due to a Covid outbreak, with the club’s under 23s now heading to the North West for the game.

Manager Wayne Rooney won’t be in the dugout either, which, for Birch and his team mates takes a bit of the shine off the occasion.

“It is disappointing obviously Rooney won’t be in the dugout and we won’t be facing the full Derby side,” Birch told freelance journalist Jonny Drury.

“But it is what it is. They will be a strong side, I played at under 23s level for a while and there are some good players at that level.

“There will be lads who could play in the Football League who will want to impress, so it isn’t going to be easy.

“But obviously that gap closes now with it being a different side, so it is a massive opportunity for us and one we’re all up for.”

Birch, previously an under 23s player himself with Burnley admits he was a bit ‘snobbish’ when he previously turned down loans to National League and National League North clubs.

However, ahead of facing the Derby under 23 side on Saturday, he admits now he has played at both levels he sees the gap as being a lot smaller.

“When I was at Burnley I had chances to go out on loan to that level and I turned them down, I was maybe a bit snobbish about the level,” added Birch.

“But I shouldn’t have been because now I have played at this level for a few years, I know how good it is.

In normal circumstances the Chorley ground would be rocking come 12.15pm on Saturday, with the atmosphere hitting fever pitch.

However, with the current situation, fans will have to settle for seats on the sofa and fake crowd noise through their speakers.

“We would want them there through all this and the atmosphere would have probably benefited us more,” said Birch.

Birch admitted any player who said they weren’t concerned playing in the current climate would be lying.

But the right back added that it is reassuring to know all the right protocols are in place.

He added: “It is concerning and every player will admit that.

“But we have the right protocols and measures in place, that is the reassuring part.

“And at our level, maybe unlike elsewhere, if there is any danger whatsoever then it is cancelled.

“They don’t try and play through, the game is off and it will be re-arranged.”

Article courtesy of jonnyjourno.com.