Middlesbrough boss Chis Wilder criticises 'bizarre' no fans request ahead of FA Cup tie with Chelsea

Boro boss Chris Wilder has praised his club's conduct after Chelsea requested that Saturday's FA Cup quarter final be played behind closed doors. Credit: PA

Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder holds a lack of "football people" in the Chelsea boardroom responsible for the London club's "bizarre" request for the FA Cup quarter final to be played behind closed doors.

He said "99.9%" of football people were against the decision and suggested some modern boardrooms are disconnected from the feelings of the fans.

On Tuesday, the FA announced Chelsea wanted no fans to attend Saturday's clash at the Riverside after sanctions on Roman Abramovich blocked travelling fans from buying tickets.

After widespread public backlash - and what the FA called "constructive talks" - Chelsea withdrew their request later that day.

Speaking the day before the clash, Wilder criticised the Chelsea board and praised his club's "magnificent" handling of the situation. Middlesbrough FC issued forthright opposition to the proposal hours after it became public.

“I just thought it was a bizarre request and I think everybody in football did and you saw the sort of backlash on it," he said.

"I’m not being disrespectful. I went into the boardroom at Chelsea last Sunday… I’m not seeing any football people. All I’m seeing is agents and non-footballing people with no football experience.

"Where are all the football people?"

In Chelsea's statement, a spokesperson cited reasons of "sporting integrity" for making the request.

“We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough,” read a Chelsea statement.

"It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead, however, it is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity," it continued.

The Boro have had a remarkable journey to this stage of the competition. After scraping through 3-2 against Mansfield in what Wilder describes as an "unglamorous" tie, the club has dispatched giants in Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

Saturday's game kicks off at 5:15pm. Despite gaining momentum and a massive advantage in terms of support, Wilder is under no illusion that his side enters the tie as the clear underdog.

"Possibly outside Man City and Liverpool this is the toughest tie we could have had," he said. "But it’s at home and we’re going to put on a good show and we’re at the arena and we want to give it everything we’ve got - and I’m sure we will and the supporters will.

"We’re going to have to put on a huge performance."