Aldershot Town boss Barry Smith has challenged Shots fans to play a major part in next weekend’s Emirates FA Cup first-round tie against Bradford City at the EBB Stadium.
“First and foremost, we’ve got a home draw and we’re playing in front of our own fans, which is a massive plus,” said Barry. “Hopefully we can attract a big crowd against a team that got to the quarter-finals last year and have done well in the cups. We know it’s going to be a tricky tie but the benefit of playing at home should help us.”
In beating Sunderland and Chelsea in last season’s competition, and progressing to the 2013 Carling Cup Final with wins against Arsenal and Aston Villa, the Bantams are well versed in creating cupsets of their own, but Smith knows the boot can be very much on the other foot.
“Just like Sutton, who had hoped to come to Aldershot to put us out, we’re playing against a team from League One, which is obviously a very difficult tie but we’ll go out to try to win the game.
“If the fans look at last year, with the size of the crowd against Portsmouth and the benefit that gives to the players when the fans are right behind them. We want to make it a real Cup tie with as many fans as possible here.”
The tie also pits Luke Oliver against the side for whom he made 119 appearances between 2010 and 2014. “I’m delighted with the draw. It’s a big game,” he enthused. “I’ve got some very fond memories of Bradford and I’ve still got a lot of friends there. The heart of my career was there and the fans were really good to me. I had a good relationship with them and it would be nice if I got a good response from them.”
The game could pit two friends in direct opposition, as centre-back Oliver meets Bantams prolific targetman James Hanson – a player he recently selected as one of the best eleven players he has had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with. “He’s been there a long time now and I’m delighted that he’s turned into a great forward. He should be very proud of himself. I know his game and even if I’m not selected hopefully I can help the boys who are selected.”
Luke was named City’s Player of the Year for 2011-12 and, as well as winning promotion to League One, played his part in forging Bradford’s reputation as giant-killers, in being part of the team which beat Watford on their way to the Capital One Cup Final in 2013.
“The staff at Bradford demand high energy levels and maybe some of the teams above them don’t like that,” he suggests as one reason for their extraordinary Cup success. “But hopefully we can do the reverse on them when we meet. It was only a couple of years ago that the two teams were playing each other in the Football League. One has gone up and one has gone down, but I don’t think we’ve got anything to fear.
“We just have to go out there and do our best – the pressure is more on Bradford City and we can go out to test them. That’s what the FA Cup is about, it gives you opportunities to show yourself on a higher stage, and we’ve got younger players who can showcase themselves on a big stage.”