This is a defining week in a couple of club’s histories. There’s Swansea City, a club on the verge of reaching their first ever major final in their centenary year, could a fairytale end any sweeter? Then there’s both Macclesfield Town and Luton Town, a couple of plucky non-league clubs, the toast of the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, and who now bravely venture on to the 4th, with Premier League clubs standing in their way. And then, there’s our story, the story of League Two Bradford City…
Looking at their position in England’s 4th division, a solid, yet unspectacular 10th place, an early cup exit in the 2nd round of the FA Cup, you’d think ‘what’s so special?’. But then, we come to their standing in the Capital One Cup, and one can see just how special this season has been for the Yorkshire-based team. As they enter the second leg of their semi-final (yes SEMI-FINAL) with Premier League Aston Villa, with a 3-1 lead from the first, it’s completely viable a Wembley cup final could be on for the Bantams, infact I’m not so sure I’d bet against them given Villa’s recent poor form. Let’s go back to the beginning, all the way back in August 2012.
In 2012/13, it began with Notts County and Watford, in any other year, a couple of massive scalps for the once Premiership greats of Bradford, but in such a golden cup year, they were simply warm-ups. League Two neighbours Burton Albion almost stopped the party, before City beat them in extra-time. Then the first big game of a mighty trio, that lead us to the present day. An away tie at Wigan Athletic, tougher than it sounds. Bradford ground out a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of football, withstanding all Wigan had to offer, before dispatching them 4-2 in the resulting penalty shootout. Then came the draw, the mighty Arsenal were coming to visit Valley Parade…
A quarter-final against one of the biggest clubs in the county, pack the ground up, get on TV, take home the money and bow out respectably…is what most clubs of Bradford’s stature would’ve done. That’s not what manager Phil Parkinson and co, had in mind though. A more or less full strength Arsenal line-up with the likes of Podolski, Carzola, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, also confirmed that the Gunners were taking this mighty seriously, given it was their best chance of a trophy. Come the 16th minute, when Garry Thompson’s opener for the mighty Bantams, the script for the evening was totally ripped up. The Premier League giants, with their galaxy of foreign superstars began to camp themselves in their opponents half, with wave after wave of attack eventually seeing captain Thomas Vermaelen equalizing in the 89th minute. Hearts were broken, the dream done…or was it?
Extra-time was a stalemate, so to penalties it went, once again. Bradford were impeccable, producing competence, confidence and quality penalties that England could only ever dream of replicating. Ironically, Podolski missed, strange from a German, and it came down to their captain, and previous saviour Vermaelen, to score to keep them in it. He missed, and the rest is history. Little League Two Bradford City were in a cup semi-final!
Villa were the aforementioned opponents, and to be kind to them, they were battered, Bradford knowing when and where to exploit their weaknesses, grabbing a defensive double from corners, and a great opener by Bermudan striker Nahki Wells set them on their way to a drubbing. Darren Bent came on to try and salvage a consolation, and was promptly hauled off in his dire attempts to do so, before fellow striker Andy Weimann, struck late on to give the Villains some sort of hope.
By all means, the tie isn’t up, a revitalized Villa could go on a scoring spree infront of the home fans at Villa Park, Bradford could crumble, the dream could, once again, appear to be over. But with a 3-1 lead, and said Premier League scalps already in the bag, Bradford have it all to lose, it’s in their hands, and I for one would love to see them reach the Final, in which I wouldn’t completely rule them out either, they’ve got this far on more than just a bit of luck!