Bradford on cloud nine after reaching Wembley
I started my last blog in shock. “Wow” I said, in sheer amazement that we’d beaten Arsenal and made it to the League Cup semi-final. I don’t have a word to describe how I’m feeling right now, I don’t think a word even exists. League Two Bradford City, the team I have supported for 20 years, the team who for the last 12 years have had nothing but heartache, that team, are in the League Cup FINAL.
I’m sure you’ll all have heard the stats by now, the first time a fourth tier side has reached a final at Wembley, the first since Rochdale in 1962 to reach a major final etc. etc. My favourite though has to be this gem: ‘Aston Villa spent more money on those flags for the 2nd leg that Bradford City spent on their entire starting 11’
I’m still in a state of shock as I type this. Even after the amazing display at Valley Parade, that saw us go in to the 2nd leg with a two goal lead, I still didn’t think we’d make it through to Wembley.
Yes we’d beaten Wigan and Arsenal and yes we’d beaten Villa 3-1 at home, but Aston Villa would know what to expect in the 2nd leg surely? They’d have seen that we were dangerous from corners and free-kicks, seen where I weaknesses were and no doubt they’d exploit that and win comfortably, right?
I’ll quickly mention the first leg, which seems like an age ago now. It was a tremendous display again. Phil Parkinson got his tactics spot on and every single player in claret and amber gave it their all.
When Carl McHugh rose and powered home that 3rd goal it was a feeling like no other, we’d beaten them 3-1. The only problem was that this wasn’t like the Arsenal game, we hadn’t just knocked Villa out, we had to go to Villa Park and do it all again.
I’m not sure why the League Cup semi-finals are two legs, it does seem to ruin the whole idea of cup football. A one off game where anything can happen. The cynical side of me would say it’s designed so that the bigger teams can make it through. After all, you’d expect a Premier League team to get the better of a minnow over two legs wouldn’t you? Oh… wait.
The second leg started as everyone expected. Aston Villa were on the front foot and Benteke was causing us problems. Just over 20 minutes in and he made it 1-0… it didn’t look good. We managed to hold out until half time though and whatever Parkinson said in that dressing room did the trick. We were much better in the 2nd half, managed to get a hold of the ball and started to create a couple of chances.
It was clear from the first leg that Villa’s weakness was defending set-pieces, so free kicks and corners were our best chance of getting a goal. It was no surprise then our equaliser came from a corner, James Hanson meeting Gary Jones’ cross with his head to make it 1-1.
The belief was back and from then on it seemed comfortable. We actually had the better of the chances from then on, with Hanson missing a free header and then Garry Thompson hitting the bar. Villa did pull one back through a route one goal but it wasn’t enough and the team from the bottom tier of English football had done the impossible and made it to the final with a 4-3 aggregate win.
It’s an amazing achievement by any stretch of the imagination. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I remember playing FIFA or Football Manager when I was a kid and telling my old man how I’d managed to get Bradford City to the final. His response would always be along the lines of “these games aren’t very realistic are they?” or “if only.” Well, there you go Dad, not so unrealistic after all eh?
It’s hard to describe just how proud I am of the club I support.. From the chairmen (Mark Lawn & Julian Rhodes) who have given everything to this club, to Phil Parkinson and his staff, to the players who have battled and played out of their skin, to us fans who have continued to support this club through terrible times.
I just want to mention the Villa fans, I talked to a few after the games, a fair number frequented Claret & Banter (a Bradford City message board), and I have to say what a bunch of brilliant supporters. They had a great attitude, gave credit where it was due and came across as really decent, genuine people.
They are fans who aren’t bitter about defeat, they congratulated us and wished us all the best for the final. I feel for them, they sang their hearts out in the first leg and turned out in force for the second leg but were leg down massively by their team and their manager. For their sake I really hope they can turn their season around and avoid relegation.
So in a month’s time London will be awash with a sea of claret and amber. 30,000+ of us will descend on Wembley and chant and cheer until our voices are gone. Nobody could have even dreamt this in a million years, but it’s happened, we have earned the right to compete in the final of a major cup competition, lowly little old Bradford City League Cup finalists 2012/2013.