Chi City chairman: Maybe our FA Cup run means people will be able to find their way to our ground
Chichester City's chairman has been drawing breath and trying to make sense of a crazy few weeks for the club - a manic spell that's far from over yet.
Andy Bell was at the centre of things as the club welcomed BBC Sport for the second round draw on Monday and saw City pulled out for an away tie against the winners of the Wycombe-Tranmere replay.
He is delighted at the prospect of a game against a League One side - and determined to make sure the money the club are earning with their journey through seven rounds (so far) of the competition puts them on a secure footing for a time to come.
Bell told us after the draw: “It’s a league club (we will play) and it’s great for us. You have to pinch yourself. We were a county league side last year and what an experience, wherever we go. The whole build-up to the draw and what’s going to come in the next three weeks has been intense. There’s a lot to do.
“I’m glad it’s away. We’d had meetings with the police to plan strategies for increasing the capacity for a home draw. We might get a replay – stranger things have happened in the cup. We’re here because strange things have happened. It’s a bit surreal.
See coverage of and reaction to the FA Cup draw in the Chichester Observer - out on Thursday morning
See the full interview with Chi City chairman Andy Bell above
“It’s a lot to take in. I’ve now sat in a room with Mark Bright, Dion Dublin and Mark Chapman talking about our history and what it means for the club with the financial problems we’ve had, and how much the money means for our stability and future."
Bell knows he needs to keep his 'financial head on' while all around him get excited about what will or won't happen on the pitch.
“The more money we get out of this run, the more stable we can be for three or four years," he said. “We have plans for a 3G surface and to turn this into the community hub it should be and get all the young boys and girls here playing on the pitch, get an under-23s development squad, have the college and uni using it.
“I’ve always said that Oaklands Park needs to be seen as the hub of Chichester City Football Club and it isn’t that at the moment but we’re getting there. A lot of kids are coming as mascots, the parents are coming and the crowds are coming.
“We can only benefit from that so the longer the FA Cup legacy money can last, it will get us to the point where we’re sustainable as a step-four football club.”
Bell said a key aim was to get more people visiting Oaklands Park regularly and told me: “You’re probably one of the few people who knows how to get to the ground! One of the things we get is ‘What, there’s a football club in Chichester? Where is it? People who follow the postcode end up at the rugby club and ask ‘Where’s the football club?’
“It’s getting more and more well-known, especially through the media coverage... and it’s also the magic of the FA Cup. You forget about it when you get older until you get involved in it.
"I was away from that level of football for a long time, then had a little taste of it, but we haven’t done well in the Cup for a couple of years, but this brings it all back and reminds you what it was like when you were a kid watching FA Cup finals. People are a bit blase about it these days.
“On Monday night at the draw my friend texted me and said ‘say hello to Hayden Bird’ and I said ‘who’s that?’ He said ‘he’s the Kingstonian manager’ so I went up say ‘Hello Hayden, Simon Liddle says hello!’ And that’s probably someone I’d never have met.
“I spoke to the Maldon and Tiptree manager and chairmen - lovely people. How great were they beating Leyton Orient at the weekend. That is a giantkilling.”
Bell said live TV coverage seemed a possibility for City’s trip to Wycombe or Tranmere. “The reason I’m front of the cameras is that there’s a legacy about this run for Chichester City FC and the city and someone has got to stand up because this is history in the making for this club. As has been aid, it’s 70 years since anyone went from the extra preliminary round to this round. I know we’ve had some luck getting there.
“It was 1960 when we were last in the first round and a couple of players from that team were at the draw. They’ve said it has reawoken their love for football and has brought memories back.
“This has to be documented and recorded and if we were televised as well, it’s something for the lads. They were playing county league football last season, most of them, and the next thing you know they could be in a televised game against a League One club with all the media attention that will come to them. That’s something people will remember for years and years and years.”