Chesterfield's Manny Oyeleke on 'dream' FA Cup tie against boyhood club Chelsea, his 'jaw-dropping' reaction to the draw and stars he wants to face
It will be a special moment for Manny Oyeleke when he steps out at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
This weekend his family get to watch the boyhood Chelsea fan return to the place where it all started.
"A lot of us have been waiting for this all our lives,” he told the DT. “This is what we have been dreaming of. It is going to be surreal.
"I don’t think it has really hit yet in terms of my emotions. I feel quite detached from it at the moment. It feels like any other game. I think maybe on Friday when we get down there then my emotions and feelings might kick-in.
"The last time I was at Chelsea I was a ballboy. It is going to be a great feeling and a great day out for my family as well.
"It is something that I probably thought would never happen so I am definitely excited for it but I am trying to temper myself and just kind of take it as any other game right now.
"I am sure when I get on the pitch my emotions might go a bit wild!
"It is going to be a good day out for everybody especially for those who were there with me from the beginning. It is going to be a great feeling for them and I am more happy for them than I am for myself really for all the faith they have put in me to make it as a player, to make it as a career to feed my family and stuff. I am really happy for them to hopefully see me out on that pitch.”
Oyeleke has never really been bothered about watching cup draws in the past but he had the TV on in the background while he was at home with his wife and mother-in-law.
"My initial reaction was complete and utter disbelief,” he explained.
"When David Seaman drew Chelsea out, I was thinking ‘okay, hopefully Chelsea can get a big club and knock them out early so they can hopefully win the FA Cup.’
"I put my head back down to my phone, my wife is sitting next to me and my mother-in-law is next to me as well, and I just hear ‘61’ and I put my head up slowly, my mouth was open, my wife didn’t really understand because he hadn’t said ‘Chesterfield’ yet. She was like ‘oh, what’s gone?’ She thought I had seen something on my phone. Then you just hear the guy say ‘Chesterfield’ and she is just screaming and so happy. I just sat there jaw to the ground for about five to 10 minutes. I could not believe it. I would not really be able to tell you the feeling I had in all honesty. My phone was just pinging off non-stop. It was really surreal. I could not believe it. It was my dream draw.
"Beforehand, in the players’ group chat, we were just joking around about who we could get, not really thinking that we would actually get the champions of Europe. I think they were top of the Premier League when the draw was made as well. It was amazing.”
Chelsea’s potential starting line-up is a big talking point among the Town fanbase and Oyeleke is ‘50-50’ over whether he wants to play against their big stars or some of their younger players and potentially have more chance of winning.
He laughed: "Half of me wants to play against (N’Golo) Kante, Jorginho, (Mateo) Kovacic, but the other half of me doesn’t because I don’t want to get spanked like 10-0! If they are in the mood for it, it could be crazy!
“But I would probably say that I do want to play against their better players but in all honestly even their fringe players are still great. Whoever it is, they are going to be class, they have got the best youth team set-up in England as well so if there are kids they are not going to be easy to play against. They are going to be top quality players with things to prove so whoever it is, it is going to be a great experience for us.
"I would love to play against their best eleven and just really see how good they are.”
So is there any chance Chesterfield can stun the European champions and create one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time?
He said: "There is always a chance! To be honest with you we are not really looking at winning the game or anything like that. Of course we want to. But it is more about just enjoying it. We are top of our own league and on a long unbeaten run, we are brimming with confidence. It is just about enjoying it and going there and playing with that freedom. If we can somehow win, we will definitely take that!
There will be just under 6,000 Blues fans in the sold-out away end at Stamford Bridge and Oyeleke can’t wait to see and hear them.
He added: "It is going to be sick. It is going to be unreal. They have been through times so I am really happy that they can have a day out and enjoy it.”