DAVID FLITCROFT is urging his Barnsley players to seize the moment and be winners on a special day for his club, himself and his family at Manchester City today.
Six-thousand Tykes fans will head over the Pennines to the Etihad Stadium in hope and expectation ahead of the tea-time FA Cup quarter-final encounter (5.30pm), and Flitcroft will have his own group of well-wishers present.
Namely a host of family members, including mum Eileen and sons Bobby and Billy, who will lead out Barnsley today.
Not that all the Flitcroft clan will be rooting for the Reds, with David’s nephews Alfie and Thomas – sons of his elder brother and former City midfield favourite Garry – firmly in the Blues camp and rival mascots.
They will lock horns in a half-time mascots match which is being talked about in the Flitcroft family as much as the big game, although Garry’s commitments managing Evo-Stik Premier Division outfit Chorley – who play FC United of Manchester up the road from the Etihad at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground this afternoon – mean that he will be unable to make the kick-off to the main tie.
Barnsley are massive underdogs against Roberto Mancini’s City, who lifted the Cup in 2011, with the competition one of two realistic avenues of silverware available to the Italian. His side were unceremoniously knocked out of the Champions League and are all but certain to have their Premier League title taken away from them by cross-city rivals Manchester United.
But Flitcroft, whose Reds side have already beaten Burnley, Hull City and MK Dons and are one famous win away from emulating their exploits of 2007-08 when they reached the semi-finals of the competition at Wembley after sending Liverpool and Chelsea packing along the way, says it is a tie to savour.
Flitcroft, who grew up 15 miles away from the Etihad in Bolton, said: “There are a lot of exciting factors. We have got 6,000 fans coming down and we could quite easily have got rid of 12,000 tickets. It is a real day out for the fans who have endured a lean last few years.
“As a club in general, we needed that pick-me-up. The team will hopefully express themselves and it is important we play with verve, passion and steel. They are things I represent as a person and I hope my team represent that on the pitch.
“And in any football match, if you do not go out to win, then you are failing.”
While it is a day to savour for the Flitcroft family, David admits thoughts of his late father John, who passed away in 2008, with the 39-year-old setting up an Academy called Strikerz in home-town Bolton in his honour, will not be far away from his mind.
Flitcroft fits in time to run the development school coaching youngsters alongside his duties with Barnsley, who have recorded eight wins, two draws and three defeats in the 13 games since he took over from Keith Hill at Oakwell at the end of December.
Flitcroft’s two boys and two young nephews play for Strikerz age group sides with the quartet eagerly awaiting their own half-time date with destiny to showcase their talents.
Flitcroft quipped: “Forget about our game, their game at half-time could be the one! It will be a real game. It will be fierce.
“Bobby and Alfie are in the same class, they are both nine years old. They have split them up for the game, though, and will be playing for Barnsley and City.
“My lads are buzzing. My littlest, Bobby, has been doing his sit-ups, he wants to look good on the pitch!”
On what will be a sentimental day for the Flitcroft family, he added: “My mum (Eileen) is proud. It is a great game for her.
“She will be watching on Saturday and supporting us because she is an absolute rock when it comes to our family.
“We spent a lot of time at Maine Road watching our Gaz. He was a catalyst for that team when he played for them, being captain.
“Gaz has always remained a Man City fan, even when he went to Blackburn. He will want me to do well for sure, but I think his lads would much rather see Man City win the FA Cup, but they have not told me that.
“As a family, we have a lot of good memories of watching Gaz play. We went a lot with my dad.
“The phone call I wish I could have made would have been to my dad when we got there (and the draw was made) and it will be the same after the game.
“But I have not got that now. I do not look in the past, I look to the future. This is a game of the future and one I can look forward to.
“Mum wants me to do well. I got flung into this job at Barnsley (in January). It has been a tough old start with the two managers (Sean O’Driscoll and Terry Butcher) turning it down; it was the job I should never have got and nobody wanted me to get.
“I had to earn this job and mum appreciates that I have. I am made up for her because we have had some tough times.”
On the extent of his side’s task at City, he added: “They remind me of Chelsea under (Jose) Mourinho. They have got global stars, players who are outstanding, but with some English backbone in there – Joe Hart, Gareth Barry and James Milner. But we will give it a go.”
Such a philosophy has been shaped by those days following his brother. “I’m a Garry Flitcroft fan. Wherever our Garry played I went watching. I enjoyed City, I enjoyed the environment and the fans. They’re an incredible group of supporters, who stayed loyal to a club that went down to the lower leagues.
“The City fans followed them everywhere and I loved that about them. I remember once watching Paul Stewart when he got carried from the pitch because he’d run himself into the ground. That was something that left a massive impression on me.”
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