CHERRIES manager Eddie Howe believes clubs should have a free week to prepare for the third round of the FA Cup.

Howe’s comments come as Cherries get set to lock horns with Premier League Wigan in a third round replay at Dean Court tomorrow.

Both Howe and Wigan boss Roberto Martinez rung the changes when the teams fought out a 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium nine days ago.

Martinez made no fewer than nine changes to the Wigan starting line-up after admitting the hectic festive schedule had eventually got the better of the Latics.

Wigan, who have one of the smallest squads in the Premier League, played four games in 11 days over the Christmas and New Year period, while Howe’s men had to play three games in seven days.

Cherries will host the Latics for a place in the fourth round following their energy-sapping 1-1 draw with Swindon on Saturday, while Wigan travelled to Fulham in the Premier League and drew 1-1 at Craven Cottage.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “The third round has always been at the same time of the year. It is always the first week of January and it is always straight after a hectic period of the season. It isn’t ideal for taking the FA Cup as seriously as you can.

“When you have had those league games in quick succession, the temptation is to try to rotate your squad for the FA Cup which probably isn’t ideal for the FA either. It is such an historic competition and you want clubs to put out their best teams.”

Asked by the Echo whether the third round should take place before Christmas, Howe replied: “Possibly. I am sure they have looked at it and I am sure it is played over the first weekend of January for a reason.

“It would be good if you could have a free week before the third round because, when you have got tired players, you want to give them a couple of days to get their bodies back together before they go again. But such is the nature of this country’s football that you don’t get that opportunity.”

A number of Premier League managers have been accused down the years of devaluing the FA Cup by fielding weakened teams.

But Howe said: “They have to do what is right for them at the time. Every manager in the Premier League will have a different brief. For some, it will be to stay in the league and, for others, it will be to win it.

“At the end of the season, you are always judged on your league position rather than how you have done in the cups.

“Saying that, for a club like ours, a run in the FA Cup is very important and that is why we are desperate to try to get through. That is why we took the first two rounds as seriously as we did.”

The winners of tomorrow’s clash will travel to Conference outfit Macclesfield in the fourth round and will also bank £67,500 in prize money.