Chesterfield’s Manny Oyeleke on his emotional return to Stamford Bridge – The Athletic


Chesterfield’s Manny Oyeleke grew up in the Chelsea academy during a seven-year spell that ran pre- and post-Roman Abramovich takeover. Access to the plush, multi-million-pound facilities wasn’t always a reality, with Oyeleke and his team-mates learning their trade at the Harlington training ground (now home to QPR, who Oyeleke also played for as a schoolboy).

Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Stamford Bridge was therefore an incredibly poignant one for Oyeleke, who is also a Chelsea fan. He was at The Hawthorns the night Chelsea claimed their last league title in May 2017 and, despite being sat among West Brom supporters, couldn’t contain himself when Michy Batshuayi turned home from close range in injury time to secure the championship.

He was a ballboy at Stamford Bridge on many occasions and on Saturday evening he played at the stadium his idols used to grace.

Oyeleke penned a diary for The Athletic in the build-up to the game against his boyhood club, documenting his reaction to the draw announcement, the gruelling Christmas period and the homecoming fixture at Stamford Bridge.

December 6, 2021

Tomorrow is the draw for the FA Cup third round. We’ve done amazingly to get this far. On Saturday we beat Salford City away, live on TV, to get to this stage. I’ll be honest, all through that game I was just hoping to get through it; I wasn’t thinking of the third round and what ties it could conjure up for us. I’ve just recovered from a calf problem, so I wanted to make sure I was strapped up, had my painkillers.

We’ve been flying in the league, so we were confident going into the game. Yes, they are a league above us but with us being top of the National League and Salford being bottom half of League Two, there were only a few places between us.



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