Didier Drogba Set To Return As Ipswich Town Dare To Dream The Impossible Dream

Dave GooderhamCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2009

From Ronnie Radford’s screamer to Dave Beasant’s penalty save, Keith Houchen’s diving header to Tim Buzaglo’s hat-trick, it has never been hard to fall in love with the FA Cup.

Never mind some of the big boys apparently demeaning the competition with reserve players, the likes of Barnsley last season and Histon this year will always ensure the “magic” of the world famous cup competition keeps coming back to enthrall and amaze in equal measure.

Probably because my team comes from outside the Premier League, I have always cheered on the underdog, screaming at the television or radio even if, in some cases, I don’t know half the players I am cheering on.

On any given day, I convince myself, any team can upset the odds and spark jubilant pitch invasions or champagne spraying in the dressing room.

On Saturday, the spotlight falls on my team, Ipswich Town, to see if they recreate the performance of lower-league Southend United and leave Stamford Bridge with at least a draw.

With any potential shock, you put aside your own team’s deficiencies while trying to ignore both the strengths of the opposition and those football tales that sometimes appear to have a mind of their own.

The strengths of Chelsea are obvious and one such story that could be playing out at just the wrong time concerns enigmatic striker Didier Drogba. Apparently out of favour, unloved compared to Nicolas Anelka, he is set to be named in the side as transfer overtures come, predictably, from the blue side of Manchester.

The temperamental forward has admitted he has barely got going this season and knows the spotlight will be on him in a fourth-round tie that might otherwise go unnoticed for most of the country.

Looking at it from a different way, Drogba has a chance to start over again, impress manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and endear himself to Chelsea fans in time for a potential Premiership and Champions League run-in.

And what better place, or match, to do that than against Ipswich Town, predictably unpredictable, with bookmakers giving odds of just 14/1 for a 4-1 victory?

Striking fear into the heart of every Ipswich fan, Drogba told French newspaper La Provence, “If you look back to last May, I've been out for four to six months and it has been very difficult for me. But now I feel in top form. I know what I am capable of doing and the real satisfaction for me is that my knee is completely right.”

Presuming he is not sold or rested in preparation for a sale, the task of stopping Drogba will probably fall on a mix of captain Gareth McAuley, who has only recently started winning over Town fans, Alex Bruce, just deemed worthy enough of a new contract, and rookie Pim Balkestein, who was signed from a Heerenveen side where he never even played a single game.

It doesn’t exactly fill even the most optimistic of Town fans with hope, and even deploying the typical opposition tactic of packing the midfield and defence is unlikely to reap rewards.

In matches like this, the underdog hopes for at least a morale-boosting performance. It would be nice to think that the likes of Owen Garvan and David Norris in midfield could shine on a bigger stage.

With ten wins and nine defeats this season, who knows what Ipswich Town side will turn up, even if Chelsea does not start its supposed best eleven.

Giant-killings and David versus Goliath clashes have made the FA Cup's reputation so special, ably assisted by sloped pitches and treacherous conditions, but at Stamford Bridge, nothing but a resounding victory is expected.

My worst football moment was strangely at Layer Road, Colchester, when I had home fans laughing at me as, 250 miles away, an Andy Cole-led Manchester United put nine goals past a hapless Ipswich.

After experiencing that, nothing can be any worse. Can it?