Bradford City’s brief stint in the Premier League between 1999 and 2001 gave rise to some great memories: a 5-4 thriller at Upton Park which saw Bradford throw away a two goal lead, Gary Walsh being beaten by a Giggs header from outside the box and Jamie Lawrence’s brightly coloured hair, reminiscent of some of Djibril Cisse’s efforts. Bradford hold a Premier League record for the lowest number of points that assured survival; their tally in 2000/2001 season didn’t manage the same feat. Bradford’s fall from grace was meteoric. The club were a victim of the collapse of ITV Digital and coupled with the psychotic spending of Chairman, Geoffrey Richmond, fell into administration. Financial woes worked their way onto the pitch and Bradford City fell from the Premier League to the bottom tier of English professional football in just six seasons.
Not much for the Bantam’s fans to shout about then; until this season that is. The League Cup is usually quite a boring competition; Premier League teams looking for an easy way into Europe, but not so this year. Bradford’s cup run has scintillated everyone who has followed it and tonight they find themselves just one step away from reaching Wembley. Let’s revisit how they got there:
11th August 2012 – Notts County 0-1 Bradford City (A.E.T)
The first round was a nail-biter at Meadow Lane; it could have so easily been all over when County had a shot parried in added time only for the rebound to hit the bar. James Hanson made them pay with a curled strike into the top corner early in Extra Time. Scalp number one against opposition in the division above.
28th August 2012 – Watford 1-2 Bradford City
Zola’s men went one nil up with twenty minutes remaining and were hard done by not to have a penalty earlier in the game. Bradford dug in and scored one goal five minutes from time and one five minutes into additional time. Another dramatic late win, this time against Championship opposition.
25th September 2012 – Bradford 3-2 Burton Albion (A.E.T)
Their only game against a League Two side in the competition and Bradford made hard work of it. Burton went in at half time with a two goal lead, Bradford didn’t respond until the last ten minutes and managed to level the game just before full-time. Shane Darby’s effort in the one-hundred and fifteenth minute gave Bradford a place in the last sixteen for the first time in twenty-four years.
30th October 2012 – Wigan 0-0 Bradford City (2-4 on penalties)
The first Premier League side to succumb to the power of the Bradford cup run. An impressive defensive display over one-hundred and twenty minutes gave Bradford the right to earn their place in the quarter finals from the spot. Bradford were deadly with their penalties and when goalkeeper, Matt Duke saved Jordi Gomez’s effort Bradford’s place in the quarter finals was confirmed.
11th December 2012 – Bradford City 1-1 Arsenal (3-2 on penalties)
This is where many predicted the run would come to a close; with Wenger desperate for a trophy surely a strong Arsenal team would brush aside these spirited contenders. The game itself was a different story, if anything it was Arsenal who became the underdogs and only just saved defeat in normal time with a Thomas Vermaelen goal with two minutes to go. The shootout saw Arsenal’s savior, Vermaelen, miss his penalty and Bradford progress after a famous night at Valley Parade.
8th January 2013 – Bradford City 3-1 Aston Villa
Their third consecutive tie against Premier League opposition and Bradford couldn’t have looked more comfortable. With Villa haemorrhaging goals in the Premier League they continued that form into the League Cup. Bradford more than matched Villa and some passages of play were simply irresistible. Andreas Wiemann robbed Bradford of a perfect game with his goal ten minutes from time.
The Bantams go to Villa Park with a two goal lead and a sure fire belief that they can hold Premier League opposition. Phil Parkinson’s men have looked unwavering in their pursuit of progression to the final of this competition and tonight could be magical for everyone connected to Bradford City. Paul Lambert intends to spoil the party and has vowed to right the wrongs that his team displayed in the first leg. Whatever happens in tonight game this Bradford team will go down in legend at the club and Phil Parkinson will be a manager held in far higher esteem than he ever thought possible managing Bradford City.