Finally after years of having to witness journeymen pros and dross football along with relegations, Bradford have started their march back up the leagues and they did it in style. If you could guarantee promotion at the start of any season it would be to go up via the Play-Offs at Wembley and on Saturday at the home of English football promotion was secured inside the opening thirty minutes as Bradford blew Northampton Town apart producing their best performance of the season when it really mattered. First half goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells propelled the Bantams back into League One.
Bradford can now swap Wycombe for Wolves, Southend United for Sheffield United and Chesterfield for Coventry. The fixture list will look a lot better, bigger clubs coming to Valley Parade will generate more revenue, there will be a better atmosphere at the games as bigger crowds will be in attendance – it might sound big headed but Bradford should be playing the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United as opposed to Accrington and Dagenham unfortunately though over the last few years Bradford have been at their right level because results simply haven’t been good enough.
The class of 2012 / 2013 will live long in the memory it’s hard to say they haven’t just produced Bradford’s best season ever. A League Cup Final appearance beating the likes of Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa over two legs en-route and securing promotion in the same season – sensational! Even more sensational given the fact this is by a League Two side who completed a staggering 64 games only Chelsea domestically completed more fixtures this season.
This season has been my best since I started watching Bradford I’ve seen promotion from what now is League One when City beat Notts County in the play-offs in 1996, I’ve seen promotion to the premier league and staying up there after beating Liverpool on the final day but this season has been truly remarkable. In a way I feel sorry for fans that support other teams this season as Bradford have had so many unbelievable highs. Other clubs have had extreme highs like Watford’s play-off drama against Leicester, Doncaster against Brentford and other teams will have had similar situations but it just seems Bradford had so many highs. In one season I’ve probably been able to add five games into my all time 10 favourite Bradford games – surely that is unheard of?!
Beating Arsenal on penalties after drawing the game 1-1 was amazing, surely it couldn’t be beaten then City beat Aston Villa 3-1 yes 3-1! In the semi final first leg, what scenes when Carl McHugh rose like a salmon late on to get the third…again surely it couldn’t be beaten but it did when James Hanson headed home at Villa Park to give the Bantams that vital away goal that sent them to Wembley – let’s be honest a League Two side shouldn’t get to a major domestic cup final and it probably won’t ever happen again, a historic moment and something I feel proud to have witnessed.
For all the highs of beating the premier league sides the 3-1 win away at Burton in the second leg of the play-offs is well up there with the Arsenal and Villa games. Having seen Burton comfortably beat City at Valley Parade I feared the worst heading to The Pirelli Stadium but again when it really mattered City rose to the challenge and produced a superb performance against what was the best home record in the country and just like at Villa Park my glasses decided to go walkies after Wells tucked away the third of the afternoon…..scenes!
Then you have the final itself. I fully expected Bradford to beat Northampton, the experience of being at Wembley before for the Swansea game I thought would help Bradford players relax whereas The Cobblers visiting for the first time would be nervous. Despite Northampton finishing higher in the league, player for player City are a much better side in my opinion and I think that showed in the final. Don’t get me wrong Northampton are a good side and I’d back them to do well next season but on the day they couldn’t cope with the Bantams.
This week Phil Parkinson his assistant Steve Parkin and fitness coach Nick Allemby (unsung hero!) have all signed three year contract extensions. The trio were out of contract next month but have now committed their long term futures to the club. Now that’s been resolved then the need to keep the out of contract key players becomes a massive task will City be able to keep the likes of Nathan Doyle and Andrew Davies personally I can’t see it happening. They’ve both had immense seasons and clubs in the Championship will be looking closely at them. That leaves City with their jewel in the crown Bermudan Nahki Wells 26 goals and a string of fine performances he will be a much sort after signing during the summer break. Already less than a week after the season has finished both Crystal Palace and Burnley are rumoured to be readying themselves with the cheque book the latter if the papers have anything to do with it, will pay as much as 2 million pound for his signature.
If and it is a big if Parkinson can keep the likes of Davies, Doyle and Wells and add in the correct areas I generally don’t see why Bradford can’t compete and challenge for a mid table to play-off place finish. It will be difficult but I believe the Bantams are well equipped to go again and challenge, Mark Lawn one of the co-chairmen has already indicated money will be provided to strengthen and I trust Phil Parkinson to strengthen the team wisely.
For now though it’s all about basking in the sun and enjoying the moment Bradford after all have just secured promotion to the third tier of English football. Some Bantams fans are fretting over the possible departures of Wells, Davies and the like and yes they might go to clubs higher up the leagues which means City as a club have achieved success. If Bradford had struggled would other clubs want the same players probably not, unfortunately City will probably be victims of their own success when it comes to the players who leave.
The journey home on the minibus from Wembley will live long in the memory, plenty of songs were sung including live on 606 to Darren Fletcher and Jason Roberts who got treated to a rendition of “oooohhhh Stephen Darby baby” and “we are going up”. This season has been City’s time, so many times the fans have had to sit back and watch other clubs celebrate success, well for the first time in a long time the Bantams have had their turn.
WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP! WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP!!!
Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger
Mark tweets at @scully87