As Bradford City come to the ground where they last won 102 years ago (to go with their only other win at Stamford Bridge from 105 years ago), they bring along two players with a combined 96 appearances for Chelsea's youth teams. Billy Knott was just 16 when he was cut, Filipe Morais 20 when he opted to find first-team football somewhere else. "The man who dared to turn down Mourinho," crowed the Daily Mail when Morais chose a life in Millwall over a one-year Chelsea contract extension in 2006.
Filipe, now 29, feared for his professional life, looking, as many currently do, for stability and the fruitful career sure to follow. Bradford City are his eighth team in the nine seasons since. The grass isn't always greener. Morais played in Mourinho's first ever Chelsea match (the friendly in Oxford), he played for the Portuguese U21 setup thanks to Mourinho's recommendation. He made one Chelsea first-team bench, but went no further. His family and friends are all Chelsea fans. Sometimes, things that are seemingly meant to be, end up not being. Football is inexact, strange, and brutish like that.
Billy Knott learned it even earlier when he was released at just 16. Looking back now, he's cognizant of the harsh realities of the business, which applies to most in his academy group as well, including the likes of McEachran, Lalkovic, and Bruma.
"I probably only realised later when I went to Sunderland that you need to mature quickly in this game. It was such a big chance but you only realise that when you look back, like when I was at Woking and playing on dodgy pitches."
"I really enjoyed the technical side at Chelsea and I learned a lot from the players and coaching staff, so I am thankful for that. But it was a long time ago now."
Two players with something to prove. A lower division team with an occasion to cherish and nothing to lose. That's what Chelsea will be up against in the 4th round of the FA Cup today.
Date / Time: Saturday, January 24, 2015, 15:00 GMT; 10am EST; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Andre Marriner -- this will be the first time the 44-year-old FIFA referee shall take charge of a Chelsea match since the Gibbs / Ox / Lewis Hamilton mistaken identity handball red card incident 10 months ago. We've won 14 and lost 5 of his previous 25 games for us.
Forecast: Winter sunshine.
On TV: Hahahahhahahahahhaaahha. No.
Online (audio only): BBC Radio (UK & Ireland IPs only); Chelsea TV (Fan Club Plus+ subscription needed)
Chelsea Team News: Much to the chagrin of the backups, Chelsea continue to be miraculously and almost completely, fully fit. Nathan Aké, Andreas Christensen, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who all missed Chelsea U21's game yesterday are supposedly set to be part of the first-team squad today, though it's not clear if that means starts, bench spots, or something even less for the trio. What we do know is that Petr Cech will resume his cup-keeping duties and Kurt Zouma shall deputize for John Terry. Go on, Happy!
Bradford City Team News: The Bantams also have most of their players available, amongst whom, other than the ex-Chelsea duo, they also count ex-Liverpool prospect Stephen Darby, ex-Spurs prospect Mark Yeates, and a bunch of other ex-prospects of teams further up the football pyramid than League One. Ex-Manchester United prospect Ben Williams is set to deputise for regular first choice goalkeeper and Sunderland loanee Jordan Pickford, who's ineligible. Striker Jon Stead is probably the most recognizable name; the 31-year-old is the club's third leading goalscorer with 6. Ahead of him are the aforementioned Billy Knott and 27-year-old James Hanson with 7. You might remember Hanson from his man of the match performance against Aston Villa in the League Cup semifinal in 2012/13.
Bradford City will be looking for a repeat of that magical run in the League Cup two years ago. They dispatched three Premier League teams (Wigan, Arsenal, Aston Villa) on their way to get blown out in the final by Swansea City.
Previously: Most of the 36 previous meetings between the two sides occurred in the first three decades of the 20th century, including our one and only previous FA Cup meeting (a 2-0 win for the Bantams). Bradford City did poke their heads into the Premier League for a couple seasons ('99-'01), during which time we won twice, they won once, and nobody won once as well.