Bradford v Swansea: Is the League Cup destined for Yorkshire?

By Peter ScrivenerBBC Sport
Bradford go bonkers at final whistle

Whisper it quietly but is Bradford City's name on the League Cup?

A remarkable run in this year's competition has seen the Bantams become the first team from the fourth tier ever to reach a major cup final at Wembley.

Joint-chairman Julian Rhodes, captain Gary Jones (who has played in every game) and 58-year-old supporter Mick Poolton (who has followed City for more than 40 years and has witnessed the entire run) look back on City's incredible journey to Sunday's final against Swansea which could so easily have ended in round one.

Round one: Notts County 0-1 Bradford (aet)

The near miss: Notts County's Yoann Arquin misses an open goal, hitting the bar from three yards in injury time with the score at 0-0. James Hanson curls the winner in from 20 yards in extra-time.

Julian Rhodes: "I was hopeful we'd do well because we'd pushed the boat out in terms of budget for this season and a good Cup run can bring in much-needed revenues. Having said that, I went to Notts County expecting to get beaten. When Arquin hit the bar we all had a bit of a laugh in the directors' box because if he had scored it would have been another great Cup run coming to an end before it started."

Gary Jones: "I was making my debut and my over-riding memory is James Hanson's absolute beauty of a curler into the top corner to win it in extra-time. When Arquin missed the open goal that set the precedent for the Cup run."

Mick Poolton: "I went with no expectations other than to have a nice Saturday afternoon out. It had a bit of a pre-season feeling about it because the league hadn't started and it was a fairly forgettable game. I'd even forgotten [about] them hitting the bar in injury time but Hanson's sweet strike has stuck in the memory."

Round two: Watford 1-2 Bradford

The near miss: Ikechi Anya gives the home side the lead after 71 minutes but substitute Kyel Reid equalises with six minutes remaining and sets up Garry Thompson's injury-time winner.

Rhodes: "This type of tie is one of the worst - a long away trip on a Tuesday night to a team in a higher league. They wanted to offer cheap seats to attract their fans and any money we make is going out on player bonuses if we win. I didn't go and was listening to it on the radio with my wife. With 10 minutes to go I thought we were out and my wife disappeared to make a cup of tea, when she came back I was bouncing round the bedroom."

Jones: "It was another tough game with Watford playing well under Gianfranco Zola and we were not at full strength but Kyel Reid came on and changed the game. It looked like we were going out but he frightened them to death and scored a great goal. It was an amazing turnaround."

Poolton: "Only 280 die-hards made the trip and even the most fanatical supporter thought we were going out. So we were not surprised when they scored. When Reid equalised there was mild surprise in the stand [and] that turned to euphoria when Garry Thompson scored the winner."

Round three: Bradford 3-2 Burton (aet)

The near miss: Burton take a 2-0 half-time lead but Nahki Wells scores twice in the last seven minutes to force extra-time before Stephen Darby's 25-yard winner.

Rhodes: "I was disappointed that we missed out on a glamour tie but this was the first one I thought was winnable - it turned out to be the closest we came to being knocked out of the tournament. We were 2-0 down after 30 minutes but we were battering them and it ended up being one of the best games of the run."

Jones: "The gaffer didn't play a full team but he made the three subs, bringing on Wells, James Hanson and Reid and they changed the game. And then we had the most unlikely of heroes in Darby scoring the winner - although he did get some stick off the lads for it being the worst goal ever. That match summed us up as a team - we never know when we're beaten."

Poolton: "Even though this was a game we could win I've never been confident watching City. I've watched us for 40 years and we've always done it the hard way. At 2-0 down I was thinking 'Why am I sitting here in the freezing cold?' but all the gloom and sarcastic comments disappeared when Wells scored. Reid was mercurial when he came on and when it got to extra-time, expectations rose and, lo and behold, we'd done it again."

Round four: Wigan 0-0 Bradford (aet) Bradford win 4-2 on pens

The near miss: Wigan fail to convert any of their 11 shots on target and Jordi Gomez's penalty is saved by City keeper Matt Duke in the shoot-out to send Bradford through.

Rhodes: "We wanted the dream tie and, no disrespect to Wigan, it couldn't have been much worse. They are not massively well supported and they wanted to do £10 tickets so it was not going to be a great pay day. Our original allocation was just 1,200 but we kept upping it until we got to 5,000 - I think they under-estimated the support of Bradford City. I still thought we had no chance. But the fans were our 12th man that night. Wigan chairman Dave Whelan was gracious although you could see his disappointment."

Jones: "We had Carl McHugh and Rory McArdle in as a new centre-back pairing because of injuries and they were brilliant, along with keeper Matt Duke. I took the second penalty and I didn't dare look behind me because I knew there were 5,000 City fans there and I was worried I'd let them down. But I just picked my spot, didn't change my mind and smashed it in."

Poolton: "The footballing gods had not been kind again to the club but there was a quiet confidence among the fans. We had been playing decent football and we were taking on a side in the lower half of the Premier League. We were hanging on a bit and then we get to penalties. At that point, nobody had been talking about our record [of seven successive shoot-out wins] and we had no expectations. I thought we'd get some great coverage in the papers, upping the profile of the club and then we got usurped by Arsenal who had beaten Reading 7-5."

Quarter-final: Bradford 1-1 Arsenal (aet) Bradford win 3-2 on pens

The near miss: Gervinho misses the ball when faced with a tap-in from one yard. Cazorla, Marouane Chamakh and Thomas Vermaelen all miss penalties in the shoot-out.

Rhodes: "When there were only two balls left in the bag, I wanted Arsenal to be drawn out first. I thought it would be our last game in the competition and I wanted to make as much money as possible and we could do that by being away at the Emirates. I was pleased for the fans to get them at home but then I just thought let's just hope we don't get battered.

Jones: "When the team sheet came through to the dressing room, it was a case of 'Oh my God, it's going to be a long night' but Garry Thompson scored and we had something to hang on to. Vermaelen's equaliser was like a lead balloon. But at full time the gaffer got into us and said 'You've just taken Arsenal to extra-time, don't even think about tiredness, let the occasion drive you forward'. When we got to penalties and Connell put his in the top corner I began to believe we could upset the apple cart."

Poolton: "There was a subdued air of excitement at Valley Parade. There were women and kids everywhere - it was more like a party and there was no tension in the air. It was great Arsene Wenger showed us some respect by naming a strong side. When Vermaelen missed his penalty there was a feeling of disbelief. I've never seen so many idiotic smiles on faces in the bar after the game although all we could talk about was Gervinho's miss - the miss of the run."

Semi-final first leg: Bradford 3-1 Aston Villa

The near miss: Christian Benteke wastes three good chances in the opening 10 minutes to put the tie beyond Bradford. Nahki Wells and Rory McArdle put the Bantams 2-0 up. Andreas Weimann pulls one back late on but Carl McHugh restores City's two-goal lead at the death.

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Rhodes: "Everyone wanted Aston Villa. With all due respect, they were the worst of the Premier League sides left in the draw. Manager Phil Parkinson even texted me saying "it's the perfect draw". It was also vital to have the home leg first. We didn't want to go to Villa Park, get battered and then have nothing to play for in the second leg."

Jones: "I thought we couldn't top Arsenal but we played even better against Villa. We knew they were susceptible at set-pieces and after Nahki's opener we were fantastic. We had a corner late on and Nathan Doyle told me to keep it in the corner to waste time but I just put it in the middle and McHugh scored a brilliant header. After the game, the boss said don't over-celebrate and get Villa's backs up because there's a long way to go."

Poolton: "The expectations were rising but I wanted to be either level pegging or within a goal either way after the first leg. And then we put in an unbelievable performance. Yes a lot of balls flashed across our goal but then we've been battered in most games on this run. We were bemused at the end of the game though. We were taking a two-goal lead to Villa Park and all we could think was when is the bubble going to burst?"

Semi-final second leg: Aston Villa 2-1 Bradford (agg: 3-4)

The near miss: Villa dominate early on but are again wasteful before Benteke scores. However James Hanson levels on the night and although Weimann scores late on, City hold on to reach Wembley.

Bradford reaction to 'unbelievable' win

Rhodes: "Before the game, my joint chairman Mark Lawn was throwing up - he was so nervous. I tried telling him to just enjoy the occasion. At half-time we were lucky to be just 1-0 down and I said it's inevitable we're going to lose so let's just enjoy it. And then Hanson scores and all my talk of relaxing went out of the window. You normally display a bit of etiquette in the directors' box when celebrating a goal but we went a bit mad - I think the Villa guys realised the magnitude of what it meant for us."

Jones: "We went in determined to play our normal game but we couldn't get the ball off of them and when Benteke scored I thought this could be a long night. At half-time the gaffer said we had to stop conceding possession or we would lose by four or five, and to show what good footballers we are. Getting the early goal gave us a shot in the arm and we came out of our shells and played with more belief. The five minutes of injury time took ages and we were just booting the ball as far as we could away from danger. Then the emotion of what we'd achieved hit home. To beat Villa over two legs is probably the best of my career."

Poolton: "We got in the ground early and 99% of City fans were saying if we get one goal we'd go through. I kept looking at the clock and it didn't seem to be moving. When Hanson scored I screamed like a girl for about 90 seconds but there was still 35 minutes to go and the clock was going even slower after that and injury time was the longest five minutes ever. At the final whistle there was a feeling of pride. I was so proud of everyone at the club. The way Parkinson has managed this run has been magnificent and this is for the memory of my good mate Peter Midgley who passed last year.