PHIL PARKINSON, fresh from masterminding one of the FA Cup’s all-time greatest upsets, has vowed to take the game to Sunderland tomorrow in front of what should be Valley Parade’s biggest crowd in more than 50 years.
A sell-out 24,000 crowd is expected as the Bantams look to follow the amazing feat of beating Chelsea in the last round by claiming another Premier League scalp.
Parkinson is mindful of the huge gulf in resources between the two clubs, claiming that just one “mid-earner” at the Stadium of Light will be remunerated more in one year than the entire Bradford squad and coaching staff put together.
But, after seeing off Jose Mourinho’s Blues and taking City to the League Cup final in 2013, the 47-year-old insists nothing is beyond his League One battlers.
He said: “We go into the game as underdogs, like we always do. That is the reality.
“The minute any of our players or supporters think, ‘Oh, we’ve beaten Chelsea and Sunderland aren’t doing great in the Premier League’ that’s the minute we’ll be heading out of the FA Cup.
“We have to remember we are up against a team where their mid-wage earner will be earning more than our whole budget, our whole management and coaching team put together.
“That is the gulf in finances between the two clubs. But we have shown in the past what can be achieved.
“The old saying we have used a lot is that while we respect these Premier League teams, we certainly do not fear them.
“In each game we have played against these teams, we have had a strong platform defensively but also had an attacking threat in the team. If we had gone to Chelsea and sat back deep in our own half for 90 minutes, we would have been beaten.
“That is why it is very important that we put Sunderland under pressure. We will attack at every opportunity and take the game to them. They tell me it’s going to be the biggest crowd in more than 50 years. These are the occasions you have absolutely got to savour.
“We have got to use the atmosphere and the euphoria of the crowd to lift us to another level,” he said
City were last watched by a 24,000 plus gate in February, 1960, when soon-to-be crowned League champions Burnley came to Valley Parade for an FA Cup fifth-round tie that finished 2-2.
Since then, the largest crowd to watch the Bantams on home soil was the 23,971 that saw Parkinson’s men see off Arsenal on penalties in the League Cup quarter-finals.
With Sunderland having snapped up their 4,200 allocation inside two hours, the stage is set for a tie where added intrigue comes via a playing surface that Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has labelled “the worst in the country”.
Yesterday, the Uruguayan followed that up by revealing how he had ordered his players not to pass backwards in training this week for fear of doing the same tomorrow and then seeing the ball stick in the mud.
Asked about Poyet’s comments, Parkinson, whose side adapted marvellously to the pitch in Monday’s victory over Milton Keynes Dons, said: “The pitch is better than it was. We have done more work on it since Monday.
“We have played some great football on the pitch and bigger things have been made of it than it actually is.
“I went to Sunderland (on Tuesday, when QPR won 2-0) and have got to say their pitch was pretty heavy. They have had some worse weather than us up there. It wasn’t the bowling green that Craven Cottage was the week before.
“If we can use it to our advantage, we will. But we’ve been working on the pitch because we have got good technical players who want a decent surface themselves.”
Sunderland will, understandably, be wary of City after the latter’s stunning 4-2 win at Chelsea.
The City chief added: “Part of me still can’t believe what happened. I hope it does go down in folklore and I think it deserves to because you have to look at the gulf that exists now between the Premier League and the rest.
“We were two goals down and Chelsea don’t concede four goals, do they? I would have been more than happy with 2-2 and a replay.
“I can’t think of a more suitable word than ‘surreal’.
“Not in our wildest dreams did we expect to beat them but we were able to do that. This is a bonus game for us. We want to enjoy playing on our home ground in front of a sell-out crowd.”
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