Centre-half warns Premier League opponents that Foxes are not to be taken lightly but admits promotion is their main goal
Three cheers for footballers who do not take themselves too seriously. "I couldn't tell you, to be honest," Leicester's Wes Morgan freely admits when asked if Sunday's quarter-final at Chelsea represents the furthest he has been in the FA Cup. "I haven't been keeping a record but I'm pretty sure I haven't been in a quarter-final before."
That the centre-half clearly thinks stats and scrapbooks are for anoraks does not mean he is dismissive of the challenge ahead. He watched Chelsea in action against Napoli in midweek and like everyone else could hardly fail to have been impressed. "Chelsea are a massive club, they have a great team and this tie is something we are all looking forward to," he says.
"They have just had a big result in Europe and I'm sure they will be on a high so this is probably not the best time to face them. But we haven't got any choice so we are going to give it our best shot; it would be a fantastic scalp. Some of their players may be a little tired after playing extra-time but they have plenty in reserve, haven't they? I'm sure anyone they bring in will do just as good a job."
Opinion about whether this may or may not be a good time for the last Championship side in the competition to take on Chelsea has fluctuated madly since the 4-1 victory over Napoli. On the one hand, if Chelsea can still play like that and were merely biding their time under André Villas-Boas, any team in the country would struggle to live with them. On the other, if Chelsea now fancy their chances in Europe again and can see a route to another Champions League semi-final with Barcelona, will they really set a high priority on the FA Cup when there is still much to be done in the league, beginning with a trip to Manchester City on Wednesday? Possibly there is too much to think about and Morgan's uncomplicated approach has a lot to commend it.
"The FA Cup is a nice distraction," he explains, "but that doesn't mean we will be treating it as a day out. We are not the ones expected to win trophies but we will not be taking Chelsea lightly and I hope they don't take us lightly either. Whatever happens we want to concentrate on the league as well. We are six points from a play-off place at the moment and we are quietly confident we can close that gap.
"From the position we were in to get to where we are now has been fantastic. We feel we have proved ourselves in the latter half of the season but we still have a big incentive to do better."
The way Morgan talks about the position "we were in" makes it sound as though he has been at Leicester all season or even all his life. In fact he has been at the club only a couple of months, after being at Nottingham Forest all his life. As a son of Nottingham who went to school with Jermaine Pennant and retains a friendship with Newcastle's Leon Best from youth teams at Notts County (he was released aged 15 and almost gave up the game before going on to make more than 400 appearances for Forest), Morgan might have been expected to spend his career at the City Ground. Yet when Nigel Pearson came looking for a reliable defender after succeeding Sven-Goran Eriksson in November he found he was pushing on an open door.
"I had seen quite a few managers come and go at Forest by that stage and managed to reach the play-offs on a couple of occasions without actually making it to the final," the 28-year-old says. "I reached a point in my career where I thought perhaps it was time to move on. I want to play in the Premier League, like everyone else, and I thought I had a better chance of doing that with Leicester. That's what swayed my decision."
Leicester underlined their Premier League potential by knocking out Norwich at Carrow Road in the last round and they could make a name for themselves worldwide should they produce a similar upset at Stamford Bridge. "Anything can happen on the day," Pearson says, perhaps a tad optimistically for a member of the Middlesbrough team who were outplayed by Chelsea in the 1997 final, going a goal down after 42 seconds to some chancer called Roberto Di Matteo.
There is little doubt Pearson is as up for the Cup as his squad, though the stark reality for clubs of Leicester's size – Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff and Blackpool are in the same mid-table bunch – is that not reaching a play-off berth constitutes unacceptable under-achievement, no matter where you started or how much money has been spent under previous regimes. "There have been a few false dawns," Pearson said. "Inconsistency remains a frustration but, if we can be at our best, there are still plenty of points to play for."
As Morgan knows only too well from his time at Forest, the real hard work begins once the season has ended. He said: "It's an easy trap to fall into, because a play-off place has been your goal all season, but achieving that counts for nothing if you don't press on. But you will never have a chance of promotion if you don't finish high enough, so that's what we must try and do" – once the Cup is out of the way, naturally.
Morgan is torn between hoping Chelsea send out a watered-down side that Leicester have a chance of beating and being able to say he did battle with all the big beasts of the Bridge. "That's a tough question," he says. "You definitely want to say you've played against their best players." Given that he is likely to be marking Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres, Morgan knows whose shirt he would most like to swap. "I'll go for Torres, just for the price tag," he says. "You don't get the chance to play against too many £50m players, even if he has been having a lean time. Everyone still knows what he is capable of."