Bring on Chelsea! Dream draw for U's

THE cheers that greeted yesterday's televised FA Cup draw at Layer Road were loud enough to raise the roof of the sponsors' lounge.Colchester United have been blessed with a fifth-round tie at either Chelsea or Everton, depending on the result of their fourth-round replay at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, February 8.

By Carl Marston

THE cheers that greeted yesterday's televised FA Cup draw at Layer Road were loud enough to raise the roof of the sponsors' lounge.

Colchester United have been blessed with a fifth-round tie at either Chelsea or Everton, depending on the result of their fourth-round replay at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, February 8.

The noise was deafening when the U's, denoted by ball No. 14, were drawn out of the hat just seconds after Premiership champions Chelsea, and Everton, were selected as the home team for this particular tie.

Manager Phil Parkinson, chief executive Marie Partner and several of the U's players watched the draw unfold on television, under the glare of yet more TV cameras, at the Layer Road ground. It was a wonderful moment.

“We wanted this one. It's a great draw, and the club thoroughly deserves it,” enthused manager Parkinson.

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“It's a reward for a lot of hard work from all the players, coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes. You could tell from the cheers inside this room what it means to us all.

“It's been a long wait for a big draw. We have had good cup runs for each of the last three years, and every time I've said that I wanted to be drawn against either Chelsea or Manchester United.

“That's why this time, after we beat Derby on Saturday, I said that I thought we'd get Brentford away! That's the sort of luck we had been having in cup draws.

“But when you reach the last 16, your chances of getting a good draw increases a bit,” added Parkinson.

The tie will be staged over the weekend February 18/19. Chelsea will be the favourites to win next week's replay, having secured a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday, via an equaliser from Frank Lampard.

Parkinson and his players will not be over-awed by the occasion, whether they face the Blues or the Toffees, not least because they are currently on a memorable run of 18 wins from their last 20 matches.

“I'm not scared of them!” insisted Parkinson, who has guided the U's into second spot in League One.

“We will respect them, like we do every team we face, and we'll be prepared. On a personal level, I'd love to pit my wits against Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

“These are the sort of games that we are all in football for, to enjoy a big day out at a big club. But we want to do ourselves justice. We will want to put on a good performance.

“The directors and Marie Partner have done a tremendous job to keep this club surviving at this level on limited resources. We had all hoped for a good draw, and we're all very excited.

“I see it as a reward for all our efforts in the previous rounds, particularly our 2-1 win at Shrewsbury when we had to cope with some difficult conditions,” said Parkinson.

The U's boss hopes that the guarantee of a big pay-day in the FA Cup will enable the club to resist any late approaches for their star players today - the transfer window closes at midnight tonight.

Parkinson also declared that the U's recent positive publicity off the pitch, and tremendous form on it, should add weight to the clamour for a new stadium.

“The council would be mad if they didn't say yes to the stadium,” continued Parkinson.

“If it was up to me, I'd have arranged a council meeting for the Sunday after our win over Derby to push through the stadium. We can't do any more.

“The chairman (Peter Heard) has done all he can do, and Marie has worked so hard to make it happen.

“People have said that our best chance of winning promotion, is to be out of all the cup competitions. But I don't agree. The best way to keep all our players, on gates of just 3,000, is to keep winning and generating money from cup runs.

The chairman knows this. He's a businessman,” concluded Parkinson.

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