When Per Mertesacker walked through the main entrance of Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane, he was finding it hard not to smile.
Not only was he back in the squad for the only the second time since sustaining a long-term knee injury back in July, the World Cup winner was revisiting the compact dressing rooms that he had experienced for many years before making the grade in the Bundesliga.
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“I know those places and those kinds of games, but it’s always good to get a reminder,” he told Arsenal Player. “We all started there and once you get into the first divisions in your country, the locker rooms get bigger and bigger. It’s not always better, it’s different, but we’ve all seen this before, so it was fun for us.
“It was very crowded, dark and very small, but at the same time we were a unit, laughing and that’s what football is about. It’s about being compact, being together. That was brilliant for us, that experience. We need to take advantage to that experience to feel humble enough that we have state-of-the-art facilities and dressing rooms here.”
We face another non-league test when we host National League leaders Lincoln City at Emirates Stadium, and Mertesacker’s expecting a tough match against the side who beat Burnley at Turf Moor to reach Saturday’s quarter-final.
“That’s what the cup’s about, that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “They were all buzzing to meet us [at Sutton]. They gave us a good reception, both their players and fans. This time we know our home ground better and we are excited to play in front of our home crowd on the way to Wembley.
“But the way they went to Burnley and won, in that fashion, that needs to be respected. We cannot underestimate any side in any league in this country, and that’s what I’ve learned. When I played in the German cup, it was the same.
“The only advantage here is that in Germany we would’ve travelled to Lincoln because they have home-court advantage. That would’ve been more interesting, but at the same time they won away from home in the previous round.”
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