“WHY can’t it be us!”

It is a mantra that has served Chorley well in their epic FA Cup run which continues when they host Derby County in their televised third round clash tomorrow lunchtime.

The Magpies will be underdogs – even against a Rams side set to be largely made up of Under-23s and Under-18s after a Covid outbreak at Pride Park - but they were underdogs at Wigan Athletic and Peterborough United in the previous rounds and look what happened there.

Chorley boss Jamie Vermiglio’s hopes of fist-pumping or elbow-touching with Wayne Rooney on the Victory Park touchline have passed with former Blackburn Rovers boss Gary Bowyer, now professional development phase coach at Derby, assisting senior professional development phase coach Pat Lyons with all first-team staff absent.

So why can’t it be Chorley?

“That has been a part of our team talk,” said Vermiglio who masterminded a superb 3-2 extra time win at Wigan in round one and an equally impressive 2-1 victory at Peterborough a round later.

“The players are thinking ‘why not, why can’t it be us’.

“You see it every season, there is one team that goes on a little bit of a run. It is us at the moment.

“We don’t want the run to stop but the odds are very much in Derby’s favour and I know the Covid will be a bit of a blow but they are still favourites, they are still an ex-Premier League side, they still have a budget I don’t know how many times the size of ours and they are expected to win.

“We are still massively the underdogs, whether they bring the Under-18s, Under-23s or a certain amount of their first team squad.

“We are the underdogs and that is how we need to act, backs-against-the-wall mentality and give them a really strong game.”

Vermiglio would love to admit that the tie has been on the back burner since the draw was made in November but that has not been the case.

But it certainly hasn’t been a distraction with Chorley beaten just once in their seven league games since victory at Peterborough.

“I’d like to say it has but in all honesty for me it hasn’t,” said Vermiglio. “It is one of the biggest games in the club’s history, one of my biggest games as a manger and despite me being really focused on the other games, and the lads being really focused, without doubt, everyone has been thinking about it.

“It is just human nature, it’s in the calendar, it’s a big fixture, everyone is looking forward to it and you can’t help but think about it.”

The FA Cup has been a saviour both on and off the pitch for Chorley.

The Magpies couldn’t buy a point in the opening weeks of their National League North campaign - four straight defeats punctuated by FA Cup qualifying round wins over Gateshead and York City.

The win at Wigan saw confidence soar and, on the back of one league defeat in 10, Chorley climbed in to play-off contention.

But it is off the pitch where the cup run, which has generated up to £250k for the club, has been a real life saver.

“I am probably not exaggerating by saying it has saved the club,” said Vermiglio. “I don’t know what we have made exactly but I think it is a figure close to £200k-£250k from the TV revenue, sponsors and what-not, so it has helped us sustain the club and we are in a very fortunate position.”

Liverpudlian Vermiglio grew up in the Scarisbrick Road area of the city, a red to Rooney’s blue in nearby Toxteth.

They never met in their home town and they will not meet in East Lancashire either - which will no doubt be a major disappointment for Vermiglio and his players.

“He is an absolute legend with England and with Manchester United,” said Vermiglio, speaking before Rooney's absence was confirmed. “From a personal point of view, you want to see Wayne Rooney walk in to Victory Park, you want to know what his experiences are of walking into our changing rooms and you want to be able to shake his hand or fist pump or elbow whatever it is we have got to do.”

Rooney or no Rooney, it will be a proud day for Vermiglio who has served the club as player, coach and manager.

“It’s massive for me, I was proud when I took over, I was proud when I joined as a 19, 20-year-old,” he said. “The progress the club has made in the last 10 years has been phenomenal and it is something to say I am proud of being a part of.”

While Vermiglio said tomorrow will be a day for everyone to cherish, he warned Chorley are not just there to make up the numbers.

“Just to make it perfectly clear, we are not just here just to have that moment,” he added. “We are preparing fully, we believe in ourselves. We have got a strong side and and we are going to be giving it a go.

“We fully recognise that we are the underdogs, most things are against us but Derby are going to know they are going to be in a game and if they don’t they will certainly know it by the first few minutes.”