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Saturday, 19 February, 2000, 16:11 GMT
Taylor responds with romance

Taylor (in red) puts his squad through their paces


In a season which has not been short of shocks, few stories have been as romantic as Gillingham's finest ever cup run which continues at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

A year ago Gills manager Peter Taylor was employed by the FA as one of the most successful coaches in England's history.

His under-21 side had enjoyed a lengthy unbeaten run but because he was connected with the discredited Glenn Hoddle regime, he had to go.

Chelsea's cup run
Hull City (a) 6-1
Nottm F (h) 2-0
Leicester (h) 2-1
Taylor has wasted no time in reminding the FA of his ability, with his side featuring in more cup draws than any other, having started in the first round back in the autumn.

The quality of the opposition Gillingham has beaten has steadily improved, starting with two third division sides, one first division club and two from the Premiership.

Champions League Chelsea are next but Taylor does not mind visiting the cup favourites.

"I want the players to sample what the big time is like because I'd be disappointed if any of them didn't want it on a regular basis, said Taylor.

"Realistically we've got no chance against Chelsea. You can have any plan you like and we certainly won't be sitting back and just lumping the ball forward.

Asaba has been training enthusiastically
"But then a class act like George Weah does a bit of magic and blows everything out the window.

"But if we play as well as we can and work hard, you never know what can happen in the FA Cup."

Taylor's big decision is whether to recall Gillingham's 550,000 record signing striker Carl Asaba who notched 20 goals last season but has been out since a groin operation in May.

"He's trained well and had a couple of reserve games last week, so he'll be in the squad," said Taylor.

Gillingham's cup run
Cheltenham (a) 1-1 (replay) 3-2
Darlington (h) 3-1
Walsall (h) 2-1
Bradford (h) 3-1
Sheff Wed (h) 3-1
"Whether it's right to start him in a game like this I'm not sure but he could be a valuable option on the bench if it is 0-0 with, say, 15 minutes to go."

Chelsea's build-up has been dominated by absent Nigerian star Celestine Babayaro.

The club have effectively given up all hope of the African showing up in time for the match.

The Blues are ready to launch an official complaint to Fifa after Babayaro failed to return this week after playing for Nigeria in last Sunday's final of the African Nations Cup final.

Wise: Latest suspension
Skipper Dennis Wise and Frank Leboeuf are suspended, while Graeme Le Saux, Jes Hogh and Albert Ferrer are still recovering from ankle injuries and Emerson Thome is cup-tied.

But manager Gianluca Vialli is determined that despite the absences, his side will end the Gills' fairy-tale cup run.

"I'm not going to deny that on paper we are much better than them. I don't know much about them but, enough, hopefully to cope with what they can produce.

"We would love to get to Wembley in the last year of the FA Cup before the stadium is rebuilt."

Jody Morris is favourite to replace Wise while John Terry looks set to form a central defensive partnership with Marcel Desailly, and Gianfranco Zola may make his first start in a month.

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See also:
31 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Shearer returns to haunt Rovers
30 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Carbone magic kills off Leeds
30 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Weah takes Blues into last eight
30 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Glamour tie for Gills
29 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Hunt caps Charlton comeback
29 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Owls' misery continues
29 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Tranmere on target for Wembley double
29 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Bolton hold their nerve
29 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Toffees made to battle
19 Feb 00 |  Football
Blues confused as Eagle takes flight

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