Chelsea vs Bradford City FA Cup preview
@Stamford Bridge on Saturday 24 January, 2015
By Gareth Walker
Everyone associated with Bradford City deserves this. Everyone who has stuck by the club during the dark days of administrations and relegations. Fans, players, staff, sponsors, owners. As one we have earned the right to enjoy our trip to London on Saturday. A trip to London to play against the best team in the country on their own patch, on a day which will draw the attention of the nation towards Bradford City once more.
Being under such a spotlight is something that we are reasonably familiar with. Ever since the draw was made, the excitement and anticipation has evoked memories of that history making run from just two seasons ago. Back then it was Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa against whom our players’ names were edged into folklore and fairytales came true. Now we dream again.
Some things are just the same – the David vs Goliath feeling, the rush for tickets, the queues, the travel arrangements, even the distraction that it provides from a fledgling play off push, but most of all, the significance to the club still remains.
Two years ago the journey to Wembley is credited as helping to transform the club and its City. The exposure and financial benefits brought about by glamour ties against two of English football’s biggest names provided a catalyst, which at the very least propelled the club towards a first promotion in 14 years. Now, the hope is that Saturday can provide something similar.
This time around it is likely to be even tougher. The financial rewards that Saturday’s game has earned us before a ball has even been kicked are estimated to be approximately £500k. Considering that the whole cup run two years ago banked us approximately £2.5m, the difference is clear to see.
With all due respect to the League Cup, it will always be the poorer relation to its more illustrious cousin. The FA Cup is English football’s premier cup competition. Globally renowned for its stature and magic, it is treated with much more respect by the big clubs – and they don’t get much bigger than Chelsea at the moment.
Based in one of the wealthiest areas of the nation’s capital, Chelsea football club now has riches which reflect its surroundings. Over the last twenty years, it has been transformed firstly into one of Britain’s top sides and then into one of Europe’s elite.
In the late 1990s it was the cash of the late Matthew Harding that helped to attract players such as Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli and Frank LeBoef to Stamford Bridge. Latterly and more dramatically, we are all familiar with the tale of Roman Abramovich’s Russian millions transforming the club into one which attracts arguably the best players and manager in the world, and wins European Cups.
It is a story which doesn’t sit well with your average football supporter. Maybe it’s just jealousy, maybe it’s bitterness – but whatever way you look at them, it is difficult to stomach seeing a club who previously were just another run-of-the-mill English side suddenly being able to spend money that they have done little to earn. It is even harder when the fans of such a club appear so far detached from the reality that the rest of us live in.
Always ready to rub opposing fans’ noses in it, as they gloat about their scarcely earned successes, Chelsea supporters do little to endear themselves to the football community, and the empty seats that surround Stamford Bridge on many a match day lead one to think that they scarcely appreciate it either.
As recently as this week, Chelsea dismissed the idea of blasting artificial crowd noise into their stadium on match days. The fact that this was even up for discussion was scoffed in Bradford. The discrepancies between the two clubs stretches much further than the economies of their postcodes and their on the pitch fortunes of the last decade. This season we have been credited as having one of the noisiest followings in League One, and I will back every one of our 6,000 travelling fans to further enhance that reputation on Saturday.
The last time that the two clubs played each other, they were on about as equal a footing as is possible. Back then City were a Premier League side and the home game in that 2000/01 season is seen as the high water mark in Bradford City’s post war history. On that balmy August night, led by our own superstar Benito Carbone we upset a team of superstars.
Now, we are tasked with doing the same again only without any superstar of note. Instead we have a team of modest heroes endeared to only us.
Barring Ben Williams coming in for Jordan Pickford in goal, City’s team picks itself and I expect us to line up in the same way that we did for the 1-0 defeat against Yeovil last weekend. Stephen Darby, James Meredith, Andrew Davies, Rory McArdle, Billy Knott, Filipe Morais, Gary Liddle, Jon Stead and James Hanson have earned their right to test themselves against the best and on one of the biggest stages. Andy Halliday has signed for City from Middlesbrough until the end of the season and is also in the frame.
Chelsea’s team on the other hand is anybody’s guess, with this game sandwiched between the two legs of their league cup semi-final against Liverpool. What you can guarantee, however, is that each of their players is likely to be of international calibre, each of their players is likely to have already won multiple honours during their career, and each of their players transfer values is likely to be greater then the net worth of our whole club.
Nobody expects us to win on Saturday, we’ve probably already had our allowance of miracles, but remember – we deserve this, we’ve earned it, now let’s make the most of it and enjoy it.