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Bradford City chief Rhodes has 23,500 reasons to be cheerful
Julian Rhodes could be excused for pinching himself as Valley Parade braces itself for the biggest crowd in more than half a century on Tuesday.
City anticipate a sell-out attendance of around 23,500 for their David and Goliath clash with Arsenal.
If that’s the case, the Capital One Cup quarter-final will attract the largest audience at the ground since 26,227 watched them draw 2-2 with Burnley in the FA Cup fifth round in February 1960.
For joint-owner Rhodes, it will be a poignant occasion. After so many years of disappointment and failure, the prospect of the “sold out” signs ever being dusted off again seemed remote.
“You go through periods thinking it will never, ever happen,” he admitted. “So I can’t wait to see the stadium full.
“We get decent attendances anyway, especially given the division we are in, and we’ve had some big crowds when we’ve dropped the ticket prices to £1.
“But we do have this very large stadium and to have over 23,000 is something we all want to see.
“We got 23,000 in 1970 against Tottenham in the FA Cup, which we want to beat. There are certain seats we won’t be able to use but I’m sure it will still be a sell-out of what’s available.
“To have one of the biggest teams in the world coming to Valley Parade is great for everybody. It would be something to see the ground full for it.”
It is not just the football club that will benefit from the national spotlight. Rhodes believes the positive exposure on the area will make a welcome change from the usual down-trodden perception portrayed around the country.
“It’s a big night for the city itself as much as the club. Let’s face it, we don’t get a great deal to cheer about in Bradford.
“Everybody is talking about it, not just round here but in neighbouring cities. Everyone wants to go or if not they’ll be watching it on the telly.
“It’s been manic in the ticket office, as you can imagine, but the staff have done remarkably well.
“I know the intention in the first place was to make tickets available online only for the first few days but that was changed.
“I’m not so sure they appreciated that when the queues started all the way down the road!
“But it’s been a pleasant surprise. We normally have three cup games a year and get knocked out of the first round in every one.
“I think they will get some decent TV viewing figures and it would be good to put on a show. It’s not often you get a ‘fourth division’ side playing one of the top teams.
“Let’s hope we can be competitive. And if we take it to penalties, we’ve got a great chance ...”
Can Rhodes in his heart of hearts possibly see City matching or even beating the Gunners?
It might seem like blind faith but he refuses to rule out a giant-killing, especially if the wintry West Yorkshire weather lends a hand.
“It’s hard to see weaknesses but if you were going to play Arsenal at any time, a cold Tuesday night in December in front of a capacity crowd is probably the best chance we’re ever going to have.
“If our lads are up for it, then you never know. Strange things in football do happen.
“I’m a big admirer of Arsene Wenger. What he has done at Arsenal is phenomenal and I’m not so sure he gets enough credit for it.
“It’s incredible what he has achieved there and the way the club is run is the blueprint for how everybody should do it.
“But he’s been here twice before and failed to win. I’m sure he will be looking to rectify that – but if he wants to play his second team, we’ll be more than appreciative!”
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