Bradford City – three key players to watch ahead of the Capital One Cup final
Bradford City have been desperately scrambling for a turning point since they slid out of the Premier League as recently as 2001 but, sunk into their sixth season of struggle in League Two, they never thought even to dream of a League Cup final at Wembley. After defeating three Premier League sides in succession, including a historic victory over Arsenal and a famous win in which they beat Aston Villa over two legs, the Bantams have proven their worth in the competition. Thoughts have turned to the £1m that the Football League estimates Bradford will earn as one of the 2013 Capital One Cup finalists, but the club hope the achievement itself will provide a powerful boost.
Matt Duke - After being released from Hull City, Matt Duke found himself signing a two-year contract at Bradford City. He was loaned out to Northampton Town for the second-half of last season, but his displays in the Capital One Cup this season have seen him become a club legend.
The Bradford City ‘keeper has had a crucial role in the Bantams’ rise to glory this season, keeping a clean-sheet against Premier League side Wigan to take the game to penalties where Bradford proved victorious. A fine double save against Santi Cazorla in the final minutes of their clash with Arsenal summed up his instinctive, domineering displays in the competition. Duke’s form continued into the semi-final clash with Aston Villa, where over two legs the shot-stopper denied Villa danger-men Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor numerous times to ensure progression into the final. His performances have provided the basis for Bradford City’s success in the competition this season, and his experience will be vital if Bradford are to lift the trophy.
Nakhi Wells - Nakhi Wells signed for Bradford City after being released by Carlisle United in 2011 after only playing three games. However, he’s proved his prowess since joining the Bantams and his game has developed leaps and bounds. In particular, his performances in the Capital One Cup so far this season have been promising, and he sits on 18 goals in all competitions as Bradford’s top goalscorer so far this period.
As one of Bradford’s youngest players, 22-year-old Bermudian Nakhi Wells, has really upped his game this season, proving his worth to the Bradford faithful. His skill and stamina have given the Bantams a different dimension on the pitch, as he continues to harass and bully defenders. His performance against Burton Albion, where he bagged two late goals to take the game into extra time, proved a turning point as he has maintained his remarkable form since – he has gone on to score a remarkable 18 goals across all competitions this season. His performances have not only seen him score against Premier League side Aston Villa, but have also seen clever hold-up to run the clock down for his team – a knack which has proven vital in sealing a series of famous victories for the Bantams. This season, Wells has epitomised the grit and determination of Bradford City, and has a bright future ahead in English football.
Gary Jones - Leaving Rochdale for Bradford City in 2012, few would have imagined the impact veteran midfielder Gary Jones has had on the Bantams since his arrival. The Englishman has brought experience and guile to the Bradford ranks, two qualities that have seen them qualify for their first domestic cup final since 1911.
Making his debut in the Capital One Cup win over Notts County, Jones went on to become vastly important in the consequent rounds, as he captained the Bantams to victory over Arsenal and Aston Villa. His battling, relentless midfield play restricted much of the space in the middle of the park in both ties, as he dictated Bradford’s play both defensively and offensively. Swansea will do well not to underestimate Jones based on his age (35), as he displays the stamina and pace of a player half his age.