Tuesday, 22 January 2013



The Capital One Cup heroes celebrate their win

   They all said that it was impossible. They all said that we'd succumb to the occasion. They all said that the Arsenal victory was a fluke.
   Then again, Bradford City have never complied with expectation.
   Bradford went into the second leg with something to defend. They’d acquired a 3-1 lead at Valley Parade on what was a very memorable night and were just 90 minutes away from making history. For the long-suffering City fans who have winced as their team have plummeted down the divisions, it was just spectacular.
   In typical City fashion, though, they didn’t make it easy for themselves.
   The Bantams rivalled Villa in the opening minutes, with Wells and Hanson driving towards the goal to test the Premier League defence. However, Paul Lambert’s side were soon on the counter: Benteke poked his header marginally wide of the post.
   From then on, we knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy night.
   The early threat seemed to have unnerved Bradford somewhat, and Villa charged up in numbers. Nzogbia’s pinpoint cross was met by a Villa player, but the subsequent header flew over the bar. Just moments later, Duke was equal to Benteke’s effort.
   23 minutes in, it happened. And it wasn’t nice.
   The forward play from Villa pushed the Bradford defence back, congesting the box. Benteke escaped from his marker and flicked the ball into the net. Paul Lambert sprung to life on the touchline, punching the air.
   He believed that the comeback was on.
   Villa continued to pile on the pressure, but City resisted. Some brave defending from McArdle, McHugh and Good saved Bradford’s bacon, and Atkinson and Wells pulled back to ease some of the strain. Duke, again, was on fine form, denying Stephen Ireland by getting just his fingertips to the ball.
   It was nearly the end of the first half, and Bradford had broken: Wells’ powerful shot just flew wide of the post. Villa were no stranger to the Bermudan’s prominence in front of goal, and this served as a reminder that the League 2 team could provide a potent attacking threat.
   Half time came, and it couldn’t come quick enough. We couldn’t defend for the remaining 45 minutes. We needed to regain composure.
   And regain composure, we did.
   The Bantams began to get bodies forward and string passes together. Zavon Hines’ superb sprint up the wing won a corner, and, as Villa know all too well, Bradford are lethal from set pieces.
   It was the visitor’s chance to capitalise, and they did not waste it. A Gary Jones cross oozed textbook perfection, finding a lively Hanson, and the ball rattled the back of the net. A thunderous header, it was the perfect way for Hanson to silence his critics and end his lengthy goal-drought.
   Bradford nearly made it a second after Nathan Doyle’s ball reached Hanson, but the forward jumped wide. City had bounced back and were charging forward in numbers.
   Parkinson swapped Nahki Wells for Garry Thompson. His tactic involved clearing the ball for it to be picked up by Darby and the Arsenal hero, who both showed incredible attacking flair to sprint forward and create chances. It could have easily been 2; Thompson rattled the crossbar.
   With just a minute of normal time left, Andres Weimman slotted home to give Villa a final prayer of progression. But this was City’s night. That minor setback wasn’t going to change things.
   After the Arsenal game, we began to hope. As the four minutes ticked away, we began to believe. And, as the final whistle blew, we began the most exciting celebrations that have graced Bradford City in a long time.
   We’d done it. We were going to Wembley.
   For years, I’d watched my team plummet to the depths of the fourth division, fighting to stay up after losing game after game. I’d seen Peter Taylor’s side fall woefully below expectation, and the club that I love teeter on the verge of administration.
   Now, Parkinson is taking us to Wembley.
   Mission impossible? Not for the Bradford boys.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dare To Dream

Parky’s Giant Killers Strike Again And Humiliate Aston Villa

The City heroes celebrate McHugh's goal

   Oh. My. Goodness.
   Over 22,000 squeezed into a packed Valley Parade, joined by the Sky Sports cameras, the nation’s press and arguably the most famous referee in the country. The eyes of the nation were firmly focussed on Bradford City, everyone spellbound by the heart-warming story of the humble League 2 team who crafted their own giant-killing legacy.
   The country had finally sat up and taken notice.
   And what a game for them all to see.
   City and Aston Villa started the game equally. The Premier League favourites had early attempts denied, whilst the hosts seemed convincing when they were on the attack. The Bantams had to wait just 19 minutes to establish their deserved lead, and prove to Paul Lambert’s side that Bradford weren’t going down without a fight.
   Zavon Hines’ effort was blocked, but Nahki Wells was ready for the rebound. The Bermudan reacted superbly and drilled the ball into the bottom corner, celebrating with a poignant gesture to his late Bermuda team-mate.
   Valley Parade erupted in deafening cheers of euphoria. I screamed. Fans jumped up and down. The Kop entered into chants of, “Who are you? Who are you?” We had done it again. We had scored against a Premier League team. It was just unbelievable.
   We were leading Villa, and it wasn’t a dream.
   Villa began to attack, but the Bradford defence was calm and composed. The centre half pairing of McHugh and McArdle was strong, and Good and Derby performed some crucial clearances.
   Duke, meanwhile, was on stunning form. When a powerful Villa shot had beaten the defence, the keeper got a knee to the ball and averted the danger, before going on to deny Benteke’s effort in the 31st minute.
   Half-time approached, and the consensus amongst the fans was clear: City had been the better side.
   As the second-half comenced, Villa seemed to gain some composure. They began to string passes together and won a corner for their efforts. The ball was whipped into the box and landed at the feet of Clark, whose poor control prevented him from finding the equaliser. Moments later, Duke thwarted Benteke’s header.
  Aston Villa attacked again. As Duke and the City defence scrambled to recover from an earlier save, the ball found Bent. Duke was beaten: to level, Bent just needed to hit the target. Much to the delight of the Bradford faithful, though, he sent the header flying over the bar. Humiliated.
   Bradford began to surge forward in numbers, lead by Gary Jones. Captain Fantastic changed the flow of the game with his superb passes, and the hosts soon had a corner.
   As Jones curled in the ball, McArdle dived low to send it flying into the back of the net. Pandemonium ensued as the defender raced to celebrate; we were leading Villa by two goals. This was no fluke.
    The visitors were on the counter attack, Andreas Weimann helping to prevent the side from enduring complete embarrassment. The score was 2-1, and that away goal may prove crucial.
   Undeterred, valiant Bradford broke again, and good work from Blair Turgott resulted in a corner. Gary Jones’ cross found Carl McHugh, whose blistering header beat Shay Given. It was a superb moment for the teenager, who, prior to the game, had joked about putting one past his boyhood hero.
   It was a fitting end to a night on which so many people’s dreams had come true.
   Is a Wembley final on the cards? It’s too early to say: there’s still another leg to play and Villa will come out fighting, and they’ve got that all-important away goal.
   The City fans, though, are daring to dream…  

Friday, 4 January 2013

Bring On The Villa!

December 11th Was A Great Night For The Bantams, But What Will The Villa Tie Hold?

City will take on Aston Villa over two legs
   You can say what you want about the Aston Villa game, but it’s difficult to deny that it’s going to be an experience.
   Once again, the Sky Sports cameras will descend onto a packed Valley Parade, for what is set to be another thrilling cup clash. The tie’s already attracted much attention: for tickets, supporters gathered from as early as 6am and the queues snaked right round to the rear of the old shop, with Dynamo and the trophy itself making appearances. After the victory over Arsenal, nearly the whole country will be rooting for Bradford, desperate to see whether the underdogs can move one step closer to becoming the first League 2 team to progress to the final.
   So, can they? Well…
   City might not be on the best run of form at the moment, but neither are their opponents. Of late, Villa’s defence has left a lot to be desired: they’ve got the worst goal difference in the Premier League. I’m sure that many fancy the Bantams to take advantage of this and score a few in the home leg, and keeping a clean sheet would eliminate the away goal factor for them (The ruling would come into play if it’s a draw after both matches.). This would take the pressure off for the second game, although it’s likely that City’s tactics for this match will depend on how things are shaping up later.
   Villa seem to be confident of victory-they’ve already started promising their fans tickets to the cup final. However, Bradford won’t roll over easily. The team have got a great spirit and the whole squad is so versatile: Doyle, for example, has shown that he is capable of playing in midfield and more defensive roles, whilst Meredith is strong at the back and exerts an influence on the attacking side of things. Even when plagued by injury, the boys still put up a fight, and that’s something that Villa will need to be wary of.
   On the officiating front, having referees of the calibre of Sian Massey and Howard Webb is testament to just how far that City have come. One has had the experience of a World Cup final and both regularly referee top-flight games-it’s going to be really exciting.
   Just as Wigan and Arsenal did, Villa expect to emerge triumphant, and the away goal ruling makes it harder to get the games to penalties.
   As City have proven, though, anything is possible.