David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘capital one cup’

A Season to Remember – History Makers

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

At the start of the 2012 / 2013 season if anyone had said you will watch your club beat three Premier League sides and reach the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley (as a League Two side!) and reach the play-offs then I would of snapped their hands off and also told them to go seek medical advice. This really has been a season to remember, after a decade of dire football and depressing results this season has well and truly brought all that passion back and once again reminded me why I travel the motorways watching Bradford City – this season is why I love football, memories have been made that will never be forgotten.

The cup run didn’t quite have the fairy tale ending as Swansea City ran out easy 5-0 winners in the League Cup Final in February, however it wasn’t really about the result for Bradford the mere fact that The Bantams had even reached the final in the first place was an outstanding achievement one that in truth will probably never be repeated.

The journey the club and the fans have had this season has been immense, some of the best memories if not the best since I’ve been watching The Bantams have been made. I’ve seen promotions from Division Two via the play-offs, I’ve seen us finish runners-up in Division One and promoted to the Premier League. I witnessed staying in the top flight and our short adventure into the Intertoto Cup but for me this season has eclipsed all that has gone before because of the simple fact that a League Two club shouldn’t of achieved what Phil Parkinson’s men accomplished.

The win away at Wigan Athletic was amazing, personally I believe Bradford to be a bigger club than Wigan regardless of league standings. The fact we went to the DW Stadium and knocked them out on penalties was amazing. Next up Arsenal, with all their super stars in attendance I expected a heavy defeat whilst watching the likes of Cazorla and Wilshire ooze class, that didn’t happen and in my eyes Bradford were unlucky not to win the game in normal time having nullified Arsenal for long periods of the game.

For the first time in a long while Valley Parade was packed to the rafters, the atmosphere was electric bringing back memories of the premier league days. Garry Thompson volleyed home to send The Bantams faithful wild and it looked for so long that there was to be a giant killing only for Thomas Vermaelen to pop up late in the game to head home an equaliser. Extra time came and went with the superb Matt Duke denying Santi Cazorla before becoming a further cup hero by saving the penalties that sent Bradford into the Semi Final of the Capital One Cup.

The special moment of the cup run came against Aston Villa to knock out any premier league side is special but to do it over two legs it’s a remarkable feat. The late header by Carl McHugh in the first leg to send The Bantams to Villa Park with a 3-1 lead was in my view the pivotal moment of the tie. However the moment when James Hanson bulleted Gary Jones’s corner in at Villa Park for me is the best moment I’ve had watching City – against all odds a League Two side had made it to a major domestic cup final, and this wasn’t a fluke!

The squad which Phil Parkinson has put together will go down in history and every Bradford fan in years to come will be able to rattle their names off and be looked back on with fond memories whether it’s Rory McArdle’s header to send Bradford 2-0 against Villa, Thompson’s volley against Arsenal, Nahki Wells cool finish past Shay Given for the first against Villa or THAT Hanson header at Villa Park. These players whether at the beginning or end of their careers will never have a season like this ever again.

The final against Swansea was a special day, the sea of claret and amber waving flags and singing songs was special. The atmosphere was unbelievable, especially the last 20-30 minutes when The Bantams faithful decided to go full swing into having a party.

Had the league season just fizzled out after Wembley then that would have been extremely disappointing, but full credit must go to Phil Parkinson and his assistant Steve Parkin for masterminding the league form over the last couple of months. Saturday’s 1-0 win over Burton Albion at Valley Parade cemented The Bantams place at the play-off party for the first time since 1996 when we beat Notts County in the old Division Two. After 37 league games I had all but given up hope of reaching the play-offs sat in 12th place 10 points off 7th with a game in hand and a full 12 points behind Exeter who at the time sat 5th. Fast forward to the completion of round 45 and The Bantams had clinched a minimum return of 7th place pulling 4 points clear of Exeter in the process, who sadly for them and luckily for us have collapsed at completely the wrong time.

Now Bradford can travel to Cheltenham on the last day of the season, knowing it is highly likely the two teams will meet again the following week in the play-off semi finals. Barring a defeat for Rotherham at home to bottom side Aldershot coupled with a win for Cheltenham could see Mark Yates overtake The Millers, chances are that won’t happen so it will be a straight shoot-out between Bradford and Cheltenham for a place at Wembley.

If we make the play-off final and return to Wembley for a second time this season, I certainly won’t be going for a nice day out. I expected to lose to Swansea; personally my cup finals were against Arsenal and Aston Villa. However for a League Two play-off final I expect victory regardless of opposition we are good enough to secure promotion and hopefully in three weeks time we will be back in League One – and finally starting our journey back to where we believe we should be.

Once thing for sure is regardless of promotion the board need to secure the services of Phil Parkinson for the future. He’s out of contract in the summer, and has been linked with various clubs over the past few months. Parkinson has made it clear that he wants to stay but the longer negotiations drag on it opens the door for other clubs to nip in and steal him away for a snip due to him being the near the end of the contract.

Wembley twice in one season?! Let’s hope so……

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

 

History Makers

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

As que sera sera we’re going to Wembley rang out loud and proud from the thousands of travelling away supporters on Tuesday, shock and disbelief was also etched all over Bradford fans faces. The dream had come true, the unthinkable had become possible – I personally had started to lose my voice and had already broken my glasses, (going giddy celebrating James Hanson’s goal), but the night of the 22nd January 2013 will never be forgotten; it truly was a ‘I was there moment’.

Bradford City had just reached The Capital One Cup Final! After knocking out Premier League side Aston Villa over two legs. In the words of the last manager to take The Bantams to Wembley (Chris Kamara), Unbelievable Jeff!! This wasn’t a fluke, Villa wanted to get to Wembley, over both legs they played their strongest eleven. Lady Luck was shining down on Bradford as the Premier League side missed a string of chances across both games but that’s the magic of the cup!

Bradford might have lost the game 2-1 on the night, but the 3-1 lead we had from the first leg meant there was to be a fairy tale end to a Roy of the Rovers style cup run. Villa, in front of a capacity crowd at Villa Park, came roaring out of the blocks and deservedly took the lead through Benteke. The big striker missed several chances at Valley Parade two weeks ago, but looked to of started the comeback for the home side. However, despite substantial pressure and numerous excellent saves from Matt Duke, Villa just couldn’t get that key second goal.

At half time, I sat there nervous in the away end. Daring to dream that in 45 minutes time my beloved Bantams will be Wembley bound but something had to change, the first half was all Villa – City had to go at Villa. It’s well documented that Paul Lambert’s side are fragile defensively and so it was proven and just like two of the three goals in the first leg, it was to be a header that opened up that fragile Villa defence. Gary Jones delivered a peach of a corner right on to the head of the former Co-op shelf stacker James Hanson. The big man sent the 6,500 away following absolutely mental! Resulting in my glasses coming flying off in the celebrations only to spot a guy two rows in front waving them around, bent and scratched but I wasn’t bothered! We had the two goal cushion again, but more importantly that key away goal, Villa Park was silenced.

Was the dream going to come true just over half an hour to wait. That half an hour lasted a lifetime, having said I thought after Hanson scored Bradford looked very comfortable, the striker had a great chance to double the lead with another header before substitute Garry Thompson hit the bar. Villa were restricted to long range efforts which either went well wide or straight at the superb Matt Duke. The real drama started to kick in just when it looked like City had done enough, with the home side devoid of ideas and the Villa fans streaming out of the ground, a long route one hopeful ball went all the way though allowing Villa sub Weimann to nip in on 89 minutes to round Duke and tap home – Cue 4 minutes of added on time. A professional display continued during that period before Phil Dowd blew the full time whistle sparking absolute wild scenes from the away fans. ‘We’re going to Wembley’ sang out by the Bradford fans who could barely believe their eyes – it took the meter in Villa’s electric cupboard to run out and the lights to go off to get the Bradford fans out of Villa Park.

A fourth division club getting to a major domestic cup final is virtually unheard of, will it happen again anytime soon? Very unlikely I’d imagine. It’s the first time in over 50 years that this has been achieved and the last bottom division side to get to a major cup final was Rochdale, but back then the cup was option for the bigger sides. Having beaten Notts County away, Watford away, Burton Albion home, Wigan Athletic away, Arsenal home and Aston Villa over two legs Bradford have certainly earned their right to be part of the showpiece event. Naturally Swansea are favourites for the final, but then so were the last three Premier League sides that have fallen at the feet of the Bantams.

£7,500 is the amount that’s been spent on the team, and that was all on the former Co-op top shelf stacker. The rest is a team of free transfers and loanees. Some of these players may never get a chance to play at Wembley again especially not under these circumstances. It really is a sensational achievement. The whole cup run and certainly now has put the club back firmly on the map and the national media attention that The Bantams are receiving is brilliant. Since relegation from the Premier League 12 years ago, there has been very little to cheer about. Two administrations and relegations all the way to League Two but this season has been extraordinary. The financial gains from the cup run will set the club up for years to come.

Away from the exploits of the cup, the league form has stuttered in recent weeks with The Bantams dropping down to 10th in the league. Hardly time to push the panic button, but I would like to see City back in the play-offs by the time the cup final comes around at the end of February. The gaffer Phil Parkinson who has masterminded the amazing cup run has turned down an approach from Championship side Blackpool to become there new manager. Andy Gray has rejoined the club from Leeds United to help the likes of James Hanson, Nahki Wells and Alan Connell upfront whilst big defender Michael Nelson has joined from Kilmarnock – where he won the Scottish League Cup last season – maybe it’s an omen…

The 24th February can’t come around some enough, Bradford City-vs-Swansea City….England-vs-Wales and who knows will the dream end. Fans certainly hope it ends with Gary Jones lifting the trophy. We can dream but for me, my dream will be a reality on the 24th. I will seeing the club I’ve supported since a very young age walk out in a major cup final – that will be a sight to savour….

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

Penalty Kings, Nine Times Over

Friday, December 14th, 2012

My Facebook status on Monday night read “This time tomorrow one of the biggest shocks in the Capital Cup history will be unfolding, semi final bound, in Parkinson we trust.” A throw away comment and one I didn’t believe was realistically possible. Fast forward 24 hours and I had just witnessed what I now describe as my best moment in a football arena; my beloved Bradford City of League Two had knocked out one of the heavyweights of European football Arsenal, and it wasn’t any old Arsenal this was the big guns – a team which consisted of Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gervinho, Ramsay, Wilshire, Cazorla, Podolski and Coquelin – pretty much the Gooners first team with the exception of Mikel Arteta.

A capacity crowd of 23,971 roared Bradford on, something I’ve not witnessed since the days of the Premier League well over a decade ago was unbelievable. The moment Garry Thompson volley home to give the underdogs the lead led to wild scenes of joy. I generally thought it was a matter of time before Arsene Wenger’s men came back into the game; striker Gervinho missed an open goal.

However, the moment came just three minutes from time I had started to believe that the impossible was realistically possible and was almost reality. The fact that Bradford looked so comfortable at 1-0 up and for all Arsenal’s pressure hadn’t really made Matt Duke in The Bantams goal make that many saves. Unfortunately though, Belgian centre back Thomas Vermaelen popped up at the back post to head home a simple equaliser and send the game into extra time. Normally I would have been jumping for joy at the prospect of another thirty minutes but on this occasion I was gutted – so close but yet so far.

Normally you get one chance as the underdogs to claim victory, and with Vermaelen’s goal, I thought that was Bradford’s opportunity gone. I imagine up and down the country fans of other clubs would have been rooting for The Bantams and I’m sure those fans felt for City at that moment. Before extra-time was reached Santi Cazorla twice nearly broke Bradford hearts firstly from a free kick and then from the resulting rebound shot, both superbly saved by Matt Duke.

In extra time, the closest anyone came to scoring was once again the classy Cazorla who hit the bar with a long range dipping drive. So it was, perhaps written in the stars, that once again in a cup competition Bradford would do it the hard way or easy way as it has become known in recent times, and attempt to knock Arsenal out of the cup on penalties.

Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones had City 2-0 up after Duke had saved Cazorla’s penalty and Marouane Chamakh had hit the post, Stephen Darby then missed followed by Jack Wilshire’s cool conversion. Next the pressure fell on lifelong Arsenal fan Alan Connell to keep the advantage with The Bantams and he calmly slotted home, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was next up and duly did the business – however a successful conversion by substitute Richie Jones would see League Two Bradford would be lining up in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, and it wasn’t to be as Jones weak penalty was saved by Szczesny in the Gooners goal.

Thomas Varmaelen stepped up last for Arsenal, the outcome was simple he scores it goes to sudden death he misses and for the first time in Bradford’s history they would make the semi-finals – he sent Duke the wrong way, but straight onto the post the ball went – sparking sensational scenes around Valley Parade. These nights aren’t suppose to happen when you are playing in League Two. We had taken on the wealth of Arsenal’s full first team and come away with our very own pot of gold at the end.

It was another shoot out win for Bradford, making it nine straight penalty knock out wins – a remarkable sequence and will surely be some sort of record.

The early predictions are that the two legged semi-final could pocket Bradford in the region of a million pounds, a huge amount of money at this level. Hopefully it will be the springboard to clinch promotion this season. As much as I’m personally enjoying the cup runs, and nights like beating Wigan away and Arsenal at home, it will count for nothing if next year we are still plying our trade in the basement division.

Away from the Capital One Cup exploits, Bradford are still the only club to be still in every competition this season that they entered, after being reinstated into the FA Cup and fined £1,000 instead. The charge related to loanee defender Curtis Good from Newcastle and his involvement in the game against Brentford.

The club had reached verbal consent that they could play Good in the FA Cup second round game, although on the written consent it has been missed off. Clearly an administrative error and not one to try and cheat our way into the next round, it therefore means the replay will be sandwiched between Southend and Wycombe away – delightful. Merry Christmas Bradford fans!

If Bradford can beat The Bees in the replay at Griffin Park it will set up a 3rd Round date with Southend United away at Roots Hall. Hardly a glamour tie but it will keep the feel good factor around Valley Parade at the moment rolling on.

In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy ,The Bantams have progressed into the Northern Semi Finals where they will play Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road in early January next year. A tricky game, but if Bradford could get past them, then more than likely Preston North End (who I imagine will beat Bury) or Coventry City will stand in the way of a day out at Wembley. If Bradford could land Coventry or PNE another cash windfall would surely be on the horizon.

Despite all our cup successes, Bradford sit nicely in fourth place in the league after the 1-0 win over Torquay last time out. Full credit has to be given to Phil Parkinson and his coaching staff, but also the players. After the draw to play Arsenal was made there was a month before the game came around, and the team didn’t switch off during that period, rising up to fourth in the league.

The feel good factor has been amazing this season. So many false dawns have been seen at Valley Parade in the last decade and finally we have a team we can be proud of – a long way to go, but all these cup runs will hopefully enable Parkinson to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window. Then we can really see The Bantams kick on and go from strength to strength in the second half of the season.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87