JOINT-chairman Mark Lawn admits Bradford City will travel to Premier League leaders Chelsea today with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
The Bantams head to the capital in the FA Cup fourth round knowing that Stamford Bridge has been a happy hunting ground for Jose Mourinho’s side this season.
Only Schalke, who claimed a 1-1 draw in the Champions League group stage in September, of the 15 visitors to SW6 this season have left with any kind of reward to underline just what Phil Parkinson’s men will be up against.
Around 6,000 Bradford fans, however, are still set to descend on west London in party mood for a tie that is expected to earn the Yorkshire club a windfall of around £400,000.
“For the fans, it is absolutely magnificent,” Lawn told The Yorkshire Post. “We could have sold double our allocation because Chelsea away promises to be a marvellous day for everyone.
“I feel the same, but I’ll admit to having a bit of trepidation mixed in. I’d expect everyone at the club to feel the same.
“Let’s not forget we are going to be playing one of the very best teams in the world. Only the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are capable of stopping Chelsea winning the Champions League.”
The gulf between City and the Premier League giants will perhaps be best illustrated by Mourinho being able to field the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, two signings who arrived last summer in deals that cost Chelsea not far short of £100m.
In contrast, only James Hanson, who joined Bradford from non-League Guiseley in the summer of 2009 for £7,500, of the players likely to be on duty in claret and amber cost a fee.
If the tie does go to form, joint-chairman Lawn is hoping the Bradford fans will be every bit as sporting and magnanimous in defeat as the huge travelling army that created a non-stop wall of noise during the final half-hour of the 2013 League Cup final despite their team being thrashed by Swansea City.
He said: “I was so very, very proud at Wembley. We were 4-0 down and there was still half an hour to play. We hadn’t managed so much as a shot on goal, and yet our fans sang, and sang, and sang.
“There were 34,000 there that day and they were all a huge credit to Bradford City. I spoke to the Wembley stewards afterwards and they said no team that had lost in a final had ever done what ours did.
“Our fans even stayed behind after the game to applaud Swansea collecting the Cup. It is why those same stewards told me before the Northampton play-off final (three months later) that they were desperate for us to win.
“I, along with anyone else that day, will not forget what happened at Wembley in 2013. It was one of my best times as a fan, never mind chairman. The only comparable thing for me on a personal level was being able to sing the national anthem ahead of the (2013) play-off final as chairman.
“Because we were playing a Welsh team in the League Cup final, the national anthem was dropped, which I thought was terrible and why I was so pleased when it was played in the play-offs.
“As for the Chelsea game, if it does go against us – and let’s face it there is a chance it could – then I hope the fans show the same support as they did at Wembley.”
Middlesbrough and Sheffield United are also in Cup action today, as Aitor Karanka’s men travel to the Etihad and Nigel Clough’s Blades take on Preston North End at Deepdale.
It is Bradford, however, who surely face the toughest task of the day – even if they did beat the Blues during the most recent season when the two clubs went head-to-head.
Often cited as the best display in history by a Bantams side, Lawn admits a repeat of that 2-0 Premier League victory in August, 2000, would do nicely, even though he missed that game.
“I was in Rome celebrating my 40th birthday so missed what everyone tells me is the best Bradford City performance of all time,” he explained.
“Typical for me, really. I kept up-to-date with the score, as mates kept ringing me with updates. And I couldn’t believe we were beating Chelsea. It was an incredible result.
“Of course, we were a Premier League team then and now we are in League One. But this is the Cup, where anything really can happen.
“It would be wonderful to bring them back to our place – and let Chelsea experience our wonderfully groomed pitch and spacious dressing rooms!
“Seriously, Chelsea will have to play way below par and us be at the very top of our game if there is to be even a sniff of a shock. Even then, that might not be enough.
“But the beauty of football – and particularly FA Cup football – is that you never know. Dreams do happen.”
FA Cup previews: Pages 2-4.