GARY TAYLOR-FLETCHER, the goal hero of Town’s last trip to Chelsea, today urged the current crop of Galpharm players: “You’ve got nothing to lose, so just go there and enjoy yourselves.”
Andy Ritchie’s men head to the capital for Saturday’s big fifth-round clash aiming to better the display of January 2006, when the Blues were made to fight all the way for a 2-1 third-round victory.
Midfielder Fletch’s 75th-minute goal sent the travelling Town army wild and sparked hopes of having a second crack at Jose Mourinho’s men, or even scoring a shock win.
The dream was dashed by Eidur Gudjohnsen’s 82nd-minute winner, but Fletch, now with Blackpool, recalled: “It was great while it lasted.
“It was a fantastic occasion for everyone connected with the club, and as a team, we did ourselves proud.
“To come so close to taking them to a replay was brilliant, and the fact that they needed to bring on a few of their big guns to finally finish us off was testament to the way we played.”
England Under 21 international Carlton Cole had marked his first start of the season by putting the reigning Premier League champions in front in the 12th minute.
But Chelsea then conspired to waste a hatful of chances which had Mourinho scowling in frustration.
“We showed them too much respect in the first half,” added Fletch.
“We managed to get to half-time just the one goal down, and (then manager) Peter Jackson did a good job with the team talk.
“The basic message was forget being nervous and go back out there and have a go, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Nathan Clarke, who was Town’s skipper in the absence of the suspended Jon Worthington, fizzed a 56th-minute shot just wide.
And fellow centre-back Martin McIntosh was only just off target with a 60th-minute free-kick.
Fletch, who had fashioned Town’s only effort of note in the first half, finally made the breakthrough after 75 minutes.
“Michael Collins, who had come on as a substitute for us, played me in with a well-weighted pass and I saw a space and put a low short past (Carlo) Cudicini,” said Fletch.
“Our fans had been brilliant all the way through, but when the goal went in, that end of the stadium just erupted, and it was fantastic to give them something to cheer about.”
Town had 6,112 supporters inside Stamford Bridge (6,126 tickets have been sold for Saturday’s tie) and the majority stayed behind to hail their heroes despite Gudjohnsen’s cruel strike, which followed some wing wizardry by Dutch ace Arjen Robben, who had been brought off the bench by Mourinho after 72 minutes.
“I keep in touch with most of the lads, and they said the atmosphere for the cup-ties against Birmingham and Oldham was great,” continued Fletch, who swapped shirts with Lassana Diarra, one of 10 of the players in the Chelsea 16 who have moved on (nine of Town’s squad men have left).
“I know they will get behind the boys like they did last time, and if the team can keep things tight, you never know.
“Nobody gave us a prayer last time, but we came so close to taking them to a replay, and there’s usually an unexpected result somewhere along the line.”
Chorley-based Fletch, whose two-season stay at Town ended in the summer, will be in action for Blackpool in their Championship match at Ipswich on Saturday.
But when he’s making the trip back to Lancashire afterwards, he’ll certainly be contacting a few of his old teammates.
“I had a great time at Town, and I still have a big soft spot for the club,” said the 26-year-old Liverpudlian.
“If they can get something out of the tie, I’d be made up.”