History-making final beckons for lowly Bradford
By Rob Harris ,APLONDON -- With a squad assembled for barely 7,500 pounds (US$12,000), Bradford can become the first fourth-division club in more than 50 years to reach England's League Cup final on Tuesday.
January 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
A 3-1 victory over Aston Villa in their semifinal first leg was the latest in a string of stunning cup results for Bradford this season.
“People in the UK love an underdog and that's why we're getting so much support,” goalkeeper Matt Duke said. “So many people we've met have said, 'Well done' and wished us luck for the second leg ... it seems like the entire nation is behind us now.”
Since being relegated from the Premier League in 2001, Bradford has plummeted down the divisions — it is currently 10th in League Two — and endured financial turmoil.
Finally, there is a glimmer of good news.
Having eliminated Wigan and Arsenal, the northern club have more victories against Premier League sides this season than Queens Park Rangers has in the top flight, where it is bottom with two wins.
“Beating Wigan Athletic, Arsenal, and now leading Aston Villa is beyond what anyone expected — it's been amazing,” Duke said. “Every minnow that goes as far as we have in a major competition has to enjoy some good fortune along the way and we're no different, but we've earned our place in the last four.”
Even if Villa stages a comeback in the second leg, Bradford would be hoping to hold out until penalties since the team has won its last nine shootouts — including against Arsenal.
“There really isn't any special secret to saving them,” Duke said.
Not since Rochdale in 1962 has a fourth-division reached the final, but Duke is trying to put aside premature thoughts about playing at Wembley Stadium.
“When I do so, I quickly stop myself,” Duke said.