Walsall, Swindon, York, Wrexham and now, Bradford City. Giant-killing tales are not uncommon to Arsenal. It is what makes cup football so intriguing and in the modern currency of the game, it is little wonder that the big clubs try to devalue these competitions – they don’t want to be embarrassed!
But hang on, Arsene Wenger has said he’s not embarrassed. He’s either taking it on the chin like a gentleman, or he’s refusing to see that his Arsenal side is in decline. Probably a bit of both. Defeat in West Yorkshire, after all, only increases the [media] pressure on the long-serving Frenchman.
As for Bradford, it’s about time they had something to cheer about in Manningham. They’re a classic case of a club that suffered from having wings of wax. While Icarus dripped all over Valley Parade, they suffered three relegations and teetered on the brink of extinction on more than one occasion.
It’s tough being a football club in Bradford. It hasn’t been a wealthy place for many years and it has a huge immigrant population (26%-plus of its 200,000 people are Asian) that probably has little affinity with Bradford City or their non-league neighbours, Bradford Park Avenue.
It’s hard to believe that as recently as 2001, Bradford City were a Premier League club. But this season, in the Football League Cup, they’ve been anything but.
The Bantams’ Road to the Semi-Final hasn’t exactly been easy:
Round One: Beat Notts County (Away) 1-0 (Hanson) after extra time
Round Two: Beat Watford (Away) 2-1 (Reid, Thompson)
Round Three: Beat Burton Albion (Home) 3-2 (Wells 2, Darby) after extra time
Round Four: Beat Wigan (Away) on pens after 0-0 draw and extra time
Quarter Final: Beat Arsenal (Home) on pens after 1-1 draw (Thompson)
So, that’s 570 minutes of football and two penalty shoot-outs. In League Two (yes, they have sunk that low), they are fourth in the table, three points off the top three. The team cost next to nothing, which should make Arsenal more than a little red-faced.
It’s good to see Bradford making a comeback. They are unlikely to see Premier football again at Valley Parade – it’s now called the Coral Windows Stadium – but the club surely has a couple of promotions in them. It was also heart-warming to see that the crowd for the Arsenal game was 23,971 – the best since 1960, apparently.
They’ve got the chance to better that, for Bradford go into the hat this week with Aston Villa and the winners of the Swansea –Middlesbrough and Leeds-Chelsea games. And I am pleased to say, the competition still has that two-legged semi-final .