City braced for blood-and-guts tie

JOINT-chairman Mark Lawn insists any talk of Bradford City reaching Wembley is premature despite a return trip being potentially just two games away.

Gary Liddle, left, and Andrew Davies celebrate Bradford City's magnificent FA Cup fourth-round victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month (Picture: John Walton/PA Wire).

The Bantams host Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday looking to emulate the stunning achievement of last month when Phil Parkinson’s men humbled Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Victory over Gus Poyet’s side would put City through to the last eight for the first time in 39 years and leave the League One club within touching distance of a third visit to the rebuilt national stadium.

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Lawn, however, is adamant that no one at the League One club is thinking that far ahead after he witnessed first-hand the quality of Sunday’s visitors to Valley Parade.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the Bradford joint-chairman said last night: “I do believe some people are getting carried away and over-egging things a little on the back of Chelsea.

“I watched Sunderland at Fulham in the fourth-round replay and they demolished them.

“While I know we have had some great times in the cups lately, so have Sunderland.

“They got to the League Cup final last year and have proved themselves to be a good cup side many times. They know how to get up for these games.

“I don’t see winning as impossible, definitely not. But this is a hard tie and if we are to get through it will have to be like Chelsea in that we play to our very best and Sunderland don’t.

“What I am expecting is a real blood-and-guts encounter. There will be goals, I am sure of that.

“I was there when we reached the quarter-finals (and lost 1-0 at home to Southampton in March, 1976). It was a long time ago but I still remember the winner shouldn’t have stood.

“Of course, it would be great to match that team and get to the last eight. Especially with the semi-finals being at Wembley these days.

“But that is definitely not on our radar just yet. People might say, ‘You are potentially only two games away’. But that is still a hell of a long way to me.

“Even if we were to get past Sunderland, which, as I have said, is a tall order, then just look at the quality of the other teams that would be left.

“Of course, 2012-13 (when the Bantams got to the League Cup final) teaches us that you can never say never with Bradford City. For now, though, all our focus is on facing a very good team in Sunderland.”

City are expecting a sell-out crowd for the visit of Poyet’s Black Cats.

Just a handful of single tickets remained yesterday for a fixture that has caught the imagination of Sunderland fans just as much of those in Bradford.

The Premier League club’s allocation of 4,200 tickets was snapped up inside two hours earlier this week with officials estimating double that amount could have been sold.

Lawn said: “As with the last round, this is a great day for the fans, and they deserve it.

“This club went through some hard times not so long ago and yet these fans stuck with us.

“I am sure our fans will be up for it, and I know Sunderland’s will be.

“So, the atmosphere should be cracking with two loud-mouth sets of fans enjoying a good, old-fashioned Cup tie.

“The tie is one everyone wants to see. So much so that we have had to be careful who we sell to.

“Sunderland fans have been ringing up and trying to put on Yorkshire accents to get a ticket.

“We have had to use postcodes to weed a few out – and I’ll warn any Sunderland fan who has managed to get a ticket for the home areas that they will not be allowed into the stadium.”

Much has been made of the Valley Parade playing surface since the draw was made, with Poyet even offering to switch the match away from a pitch he described as “one of the worst in the country” to the Stadium of Light.

The surface had improved marginally for Monday’s 2-1 win over Milton Keynes Dons, but it will still be some distance from the bowling green-style pitches that can be found in the top flight.

Lawn, however, is quick to point out that the Valley Parade pitch will not necessarily be the advantage that many are forecasting.

He said: “Don’t forget we like to play football ourselves. Look at how we played at Stamford Bridge on what was a great surface.

“So, it isn’t exactly a big advantage for us. We will make the pitch as good as we can get it.

“But people have to remember we are not a Premier League side so can’t afford to get the artificial lights in and things like that.

“We are a League One club based in the north, and there are plenty of other pitches out there in the north not looking at their best. Just look at Hillsborough and Blackpool.”

City expect to make around £100,000 from the tie. It would have been more, but neither the BBC nor BT Sport opted to show the game live – much to Lawn’s frustration.