Bradford City continued their magnificent season with a truly memorable victory over Sunderland this past weekend. The 2-0 win over their Premier League counterparts saw the Bantams make it through to the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1976.
A tie against Championship strugglers Reading presents a realistic chance of a return to Wembley and emulate their 2013 League Cup exploits. With the Bantams just two points off the play-offs in League One with two games in hand, it could be yet another unbelievable season at Valley Parade.
Manager Phil Parkinson deserves a lot of credit for the way he has managed to turn around the clubs fortunes so drastically. He took over in 2011 when the team had struggled in League Two for four years since their relegation from League One. Financial problems didn’t help, but Parkinson managed to steer his side clear of relegation in his first season as manager, and gave the club one of their most memorable campaigns in recent history by reaching the League Cup final in 2012/13.
They also became the first club since 1962 to reach the League Cup final from the fourth tier of English football. Historic wins against Arsenal and Aston Villa saw Bradford make it to the final, where Swansea were just too good on the day, winning 5-0.
However despite this result, the club secured promotion to League One that season, with a 3-0 over Northampton in the play-off final. It ended a six year spell in League Two, and last season was a satisfying return, finishing 11th. In just their second year back in League One, Parkinson’s men have a great chance of returning to the Championship for the first time since 2004. On current form, you certainly wouldn’t bet against it.
Bradford have been outstanding in this year’s FA Cup, already playing six times en route to the quarter-finals. It could have been so different as they only narrowly defeated Halifax 2-1 in the first round, coming from behind to secure victory in the West Yorkshire derby.
The Fourth round win over Chelsea was arguably the biggest shock in FA Cup history, especially due to the Premier League leaders were 2-0 up and cruising before Bradford showed amazing character to overturn the lead.
Parkinson has assembled an extremely competent team over the years; one that is more than capable of competing at this level. The likes of Captain Stephen Darby and Andrew Davies have put in consistent performances at the back that makes them a hard side to break down. Both players have revitalised their careers at Valley Parade after being released by Premier League clubs and are capable of playing at the Championship level.
The midfield is an efficient unit built on experience, hard work and a tough-tackling mentality. Billy Knott, Filipe Morais and Gary Liddle were signed in the summer and have added that steel in the middle of the pitch that has made the team both resilient defensively and more threatening going forward.
Up front, Jon Stead’s loan spell from Huddersfield until the end of the season has added goals, experience and knowhow which has benefited Bradford greatly. He offers something different to both Billy Clarke and James Hanson; who have also been in good goal scoring form this season.
Bradford have a well balanced side full of quality and hard working players who give their all for the club. Reaching Wembley is a realistic aim through both the FA Cup and play-off but how many times they will be playing at England’s famous old ground remains to be seen.