It's almost a year since we ventured to London (Nodnol as we affectionately call it) with the family to see our beloved Bradford City play in the Capital One League Cup Final at... WEMBLEY! After many years of hard times for the Bantams 2012/13 proved to be the best season of our lives.
At the start of the season we took G to his first open day at Valley Parade, he was four months old so didn't really have a clue what was going on, but S and I very proudly dressed him in his Bantam clothes and introduced him to the team, the manager and of course Lenny the City Gent. For S and myself who are life long Bantams this was the proudest day of our lives.
|Griffin with the Gaffer Phil Parkinson!|
|G with Meredith!|
|"He used to work at the Co-op, work at the Co-op, he used to work at the Co-op!" The one and only James Hanson|
|"He's magic, you know, You'll never get past Gary Jones!"|
|Lenny, the one and only City Gent. A legend always.|
Little did we know that G's cuddles with the team would bring them such good luck for the season ahead. The first round of the cup we played Notts County and to be honest we didn't expect anything from this game so we we're thrilled when James Hanson scored the winning goal in extra time. In the second round we played Watford, a championship side and never dreamt that we would beat them 2-1 to make it through to round three with goals from Kyle Reid and Garry Thompson. The excitement started to kick in at this point, but still we never dared to dream of the possibilities ahead... We played Burton Albion in the third round, I know many expected us to win as they we're a League Two side like us, but knowing Bradford City as well as I do I expected this to be a difficult tie. We struggled in the game against Burton, but we managed to pull it back from two goals down with both goals coming from Nahki Wells taking the game to extra time where Stephen Derby sealed the next round by scoring the winner.
Round 4, Wigan Athletic, a Premier League side. Now we we're living the dream! Quite honestly never expected to win this game in a million years, but you can't help but have a small part of you that believes and the excitement takes over. Realistically though we we're just thrilled to draw a Premier League side as we would make a good sum of money from the draw. We didn't go to Wigan as G was unwell, but we listened intently on the radio. I don't know how G slept through all the shouting and screaming that was coming from the sofa, but it soon went quiet as we took the game to penalties. It was torture listening to the penalties never mind watching them, but we did it, we won. 4-2 on penalties would you believe! Bantams everywhere were floating on clouds after that game!
Round 5, Arsenal, another Premier League side, what a dream! My mum very kindly agreed to babysit so both S and I could go to the game along with Big Brother. Driving to Valley Parade we we're listening to the line up on the radio, our hearts literally sinking as we heard the line up for Arsenal who clearly had enough respect for Bradford to be fielding their full first team against us. Despite this the atmosphere throughout VP was electric, we played out of our skins and held onto the lead for most of the game with a single goal from Garry Thompson but Arsenal managed a draw and we went to extra time. The stress starting to show now through the fans, but the players kept going and we got through to penalties. Much worse than the penalties against Wigan as we had to watch these, I felt sick with nerves, but as we kept scoring the penalties the excitement kept building. We did it, we, little old Bradford in League Two beat Arsenal to reach the Semi Final of the League Cup!
The Semi Final was over two legs and we had drawn another Premier League side, this time Aston Villa. I went to the home leg with Big Brother and S watched it on the TV at his friend's house with G. We out played Villa and earned a well deserved 3-1 win with goals from Nahki Wells, Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh. I watched the away leg on TV with G, my mum and our fellow Bantam friends Ray & Anne while S and Big Brother made the exciting journey to Villa Park. What an emotional roller coaster that game was! Villa pulled out all the stops in the second leg and beat us 2-1 that night with a single goal from James Hanson but it just wasn't enough for them as we had won 4-3 on aggregate. Bradford City were going to Wembley, yes Wembley! We actually made it to the League Cup Final!
We were playing Swansea City in the final, this was their first League Cup Final too and they were equally as ecstatic. We bought our Wembley tickets, booked a hotel, found our old tape from Wembley 1996 and I dug out my home shirt from 1996 too.
|The Wembley 1996 song!|
We drove down to Nodnol the day before the game in a two car convoy. In front was Macca driven by me with S in the back entertaining a very excited G. Followed by Big Brother who had Mum, Nephew and Big Niece in his car. We didn't stop until we reached Leicester Service Station as this was the rest stop we made in 1996 and we were feeling very superstitious! This was the first long distance journey I had made in my car Macca and it was pretty tyring so once we arrived we unpacked, had a lovely dinner and went to bed. The boys went to a wrestling show that evening and they had a great time.
|On the drive down with Billy Bantam|
Well the morning came, excitement hit fever pitch in our hotel. At breakfast the restaurant was a sea of claret and amber, with one table opposite ours that was occupied by four Swansea fans. We filled up and packed up more than we needed for G as usual and started the drive to the tube station. It felt like an eternity until we were parked up and ready to get on the tube.
The tube was 100% Bantams and the journey flew by as everyone was absorbed in the carnival atmosphere on board. G was the tiniest fan on board at 10 months old so attracted all the attention and fuss, of course he loved it! Then we were there..... Wembley....
|Our first sight of Wembley...|
A wave of emotion came over Big Brother, S and myself. After 12 years of hardship, financial difficulties, threatened closure and relegation's, here Bradford City were, at Wembley in the League Cup Final. Emotions increased even more by the fact that Big Brother had two of his children there with him to witness this momentous occasion and for S and myself this was G's first ever Bradford City game, a dream come true for us and our baby Bantam.
We made the walk up Wembley Way, it was completely different to 1996 and we discussed these changes on the walk up. We met up with our friends Ray, Anne & Eliis on the way and we grabbed a programme and a giant flag too. We took lots of photos and made our way into the stadium which had changed so much since we were last there, we wanted to find our seats early so G could have his lunch before kick off.
|S, G and me on Wembley Way|
It really was something else, the sea of claret and amber was a breathtaking sight. Our feelings of "We don't expect to win, it's a trip out to Wembley and we're just excited to have made the final" had flown out of the window. We dared to dream now, even discussing how the club could afford to compete in Europe if we won the match. Now we felt that we needed to win, that making it to the final at Wembley wasn't enough, that looking back on how far we had come we couldn't let go now.
|A beautiful tribute to the 56 who died in the 1985 fire.|
Well the whistle for kick off was blown and there was no looking back. It was evident straight away that something wasn't quite right, Swansea we're allover us and after just 16 minutes they had scored. But that didn't stop us getting behind the team, it was only one goal and there was plenty of time left. We tried to hold them off but we went in at half time two goals down. We had mixed feelings now, we were only two goals behind, we could pull this back, but in our hearts we knew that the enormity of the League Cup Final and Wembley was too much for the lads and the nerves had taken over, so part of us just hoped we could score a goal and not take a complete battering from Swansea. But sadly the second half was even worse, we conceded three more goals and lost the game 5-0. That said no one can ever take away the amazing loyal support and love of the fans, we spent the second half on our feet singing our hearts out, celebrating the fact the little League Two Bradford City had beat three Premier League clubs, one over two legs, to reach the League Cup Final at Wembley and that in itself was something truly amazing to be proud of.
To be honest you couldn't take anything away from Swansea either, they had done well to reach the final also, and on the day they played well. Their fans were friendly and had a lot of respect for the Bantams for making it this far.
Well we stayed back to watch the lads receive their runners up medals, we saw Swansea lift the cup, but then we left as staying to watch the celebrations was just too much for us. I have to be honest that despite what we had achieved it still hurt to stand there knowing how close we had come, yet it felt so far away.
The walk back down Wembley Way was slow and I couldn't help but look back at the stadium, which looked stunning all lit up now as it had become dark outside. I took a moment to capture a photo and said goodbye to Wembley, I also in that moment said to Wembley to be ready for our return in May. I was right, we did return in May, but that's another story for another day....
|See you again in May!|
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