SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY booking a glamour tie at Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round would be a timely reminder of happier times for the club, according to caretaker manager Steve Agnew.
The Owls head to League One promotion hopefuls Luton Town knowing that victory tonight will earn the club a first visit to Stamford Bridge since the turn of the Millennium.
The club needs something like that. This is a massive football club with a great fanbase. Getting through would be a reminder of the old times, a number of years ago now, when the club was playing Chelsea on a regular basis.Steve Agnew
Negotiating the replay against the Hatters would also bring Wednesday a significant financial windfall due to the Chelsea game being selected for live broadcast by BBC1 on Sunday, January 27, earning each club a six-figure sum along with a 45 per cent share of what is likely to be a sell-out crowd. Prize money of £135,000 is also at stake tonight.
Agnew admits such a cash bounty would be welcome for a club who were operating under a transfer embargo as recently as last summer.
However, he insisted to The Yorkshire Post that the main incentive for the players tonight is that chance to face Maurizio Sarri’s expensively-assembled side.
“It is a difficult Cup tie,” said the 53-year-old, in charge until Steve Bruce arrives on February 1. “Luton are flying high. They had a good result at Sunderland (drawing 1-1 at the weekend).
“They will feel they have done the hard work and want to turn us over on their patch. But what greater prize in the next round than a trip to Stamford Bridge and the chance to play one of the best sides in Europe?
“It adds a lot, a fantastic incentive for all the players. I am sure Luton will say the same. Our players will be quite excited about possibly going to Stamford Bridge to take on the mighty Chelsea.
“The club needs something like that. This is a massive football club with a great fanbase. Getting through would be a reminder of the old times, a number of years ago now, when the club was playing Chelsea on a regular basis.
“Live on TV, too. They are the things we would look forward to, but we also know there is a very difficult Cup tie to play first.”
Wednesday have a number of injury concerns ahead of the trip down the M1 with Kieren Westwood having yesterday undergone a scan on a toe injury suffered in the weekend defeat at Hull City Sam Hutchinson is also rated as “50-50” to be fit along with Joey Pelupessy, the latter having a sore ankle.
One man who is fit and likely to feature after starting the last eight games, including the goalless draw with Luton at Hillsborough ten days ago, is Morgan Fox.
He has had a tough time this season with criticism coming the way of the Wales Under-21s international during the poor run of form before Christmas that ultimately led to Bruce succeeding Jos Luhukay.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Fox, when asked about being made a scapegoat for the team’s travails late last year.
“The fans pay to come and see the games so they are entitled to do that. It is challenging (to play in that environment), but it is part of being a professional footballer.
“It is what you are built to do and it is what I was brought up to do. You have to be a strong character, mentally. I just focus on myself every day in training and give everything I can. I am sure the coaching staff can see that and when it comes to a matchday I am there to win.”
Tonight’s replay is Luton’s first home game since Nathan Jones was lured away to Stoke City with Mick Harford appointed as interim manager in his place.
Fox played under Jones with Charlton Athletic Under-21s and he believes the Hatters have lost a good man.
He added: “Luton are right up there with the top-scorers in England this year, apart from Manchester City. They are doing really well, but they have just lost their manager, who I worked under at Charlton.
“I know that will be quite a big loss because he was brilliant with me when I was there. All the boys loved working under him.
“I am sure that was the same at Luton so it will have disrupted their preparations. We will see how that affects them.”
If the Owls can progress tonight the subsequent trip to Stamford Bridge will trigger memories of some titanic Cup tussles from the past.
Wednesday reached Wembley en route to lifting the League Cup in 1991 by beating the Blues in a two-legged semi-final, 25 years after booking their place in the FA Cup final by triumphing over the London club at Villa Park.
There was also the 1985 League Cup quarter-final tie that saw the two clubs share eight goals at Hillsborough to force a second replay, which was won by the Blues 2-1.
And Fox is desperate for Wednesday to book that trip to SW6.
“Everyone wants to play against the big teams and in England you don’t get much bigger than Chelsea,” said the 25-year-old.
“I have never been to Stamford Bridge. It is probably one of the few (grounds) that I have not been to so that is another extra bit of motivation for me.”
Last six games: Luton Town WWDDDD Sheffield Wednesday WWDDDL.
Referee: T Robinson (West Sussex).
Last time: Luton Town 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2; February 20, 2007; Championship.