Next month Bradford City will welcome Arsenal to Valley Parade for the quarter-final of the Capital One cup after knocking out Wigan Athletic on penalties last night. The visit for Arsenal should have Valley Parade filled to its 25,000 capacity for the first time in ten years.
The occasion can hopefully act as a catalyst for Bradford’s League 2 promotion push. In recent years the Coral Windows stadium has almost become a large relic of past ambition. 18,500 of the 25,000 capacity are made up from the main stand and kop that were redeveloped during Bradford’s surge to and stay in the top flight. The other two untouched stands are a reminder that the redevelopment job was never completed and that the Premier League dream died. A stadium funded with starry eyes, its capacity is more than double that of twenty of the other twenty-three stadiums of League 2 clubs. Being in the quarterfinals of the League Cup is an indulgence for some long-term suffering fans and hopefully better times are ahead.
The Capital One cup did a lot for its waning reputation in the fourth round with some memorable high scoring encounters between Premier League teams. Surely the most poignant moment of the round however was when City’s stand in keeper Matt Duke capped a fantastic individual performance by saving Jordi Gomez’s penalty that sent the five thousand travelling Bantams into ecstasy. Bradford’s seventh consecutive penalty shootout success was reward for a ‘backs to the wall’ display with depleted resources. Captain Ricky Ravenhill was suspended due to being harshly sent-off at the weekend for a phantom headbutt. Bradford also lost both regular centre-halves to long-term injuries during the defeat at Burton. Despite the hindrances that were placed upon manager Phil Parkinson following an afternoon to forget Bradford managed to do what they failed to do at the Pirelli stadium and held out against Wigan. Considering the sapping and demoralising weekend, and that Bradford were competing in their twentieth competitive fixture already this season compared to Wigan’s twelfth, the team from Yorkshire showed tremendous spirit and discipline to hold out against the pressure from their Premier League opponents.
It is Bradford though who entertain top-flight opposition for the first time since their relegation from the Premier League in 2001. The end of Bradford’s two-year stay in the Premier League started a plight of administration and subsequent relegation’s that has tested their loyal fan base. Only once since 2000 have Bradford finished higher than the previous season when they finished 9th in League 2 in 2009, one place up on the previous season. The previous two seasons have seen Bradford finish 18th in League 2; their average attendance has still remained the highest in League 2 in spite of the low finishes. This season has started with plenty of promise however with Bradford currently in the play offs. City fans are more wary than most when it comes to the possibility of false dawns but there is genuine optimism through attacking talents such as Nahki Wells and target man James Hanson. Good home form this season seems to have put belief back into the fans and this belief appears to have galvanized the players who are showing a collective spirit shown in the performance at Wigan. It seems like Bradford may be finally turning the tide this season under Phil Parkinson.