Giant-killing Bradford City have been hailed for sparking a “renaissance” in the district after their heroics against mighty Arsenal secured a historic place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals and put the city in the national spotlight.
As Phil Parkinson’s men stepped up to face their ninth successive penalty shoot-out after 30 minutes of extra time failed to break a 1-1 deadlock, ‘Bradford’ was a worldwide trending topic on social networking site Twitter – and after the 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Gunners, reports of the League Two side’s success were splashed across newspapers across the world.
Politicians and business leaders yesterday revelled in the result of the Bantams’ biggest game in 12 years and spoke of the benefits it could reap for the city.
Bradford East MP and Bantams season-ticket holder David Ward, who travelled back from a delegation to the Middle East to watch the tie at a bitterly-cold Valley Parade, told how he believed the spectacle was part of a “renaissance” in the city.
Speaking as he returned to Westminster yesterday, proudly wearing his striped Bradford City scarf, he said:
“We’ve had some wonderful events in City Park, with the Christmas lights switch-on and the Bradford 10k, which was only 9k!
“Events like last night lift people. For us, it was like our own Olympics, lifting our spirits.
“It showed Bradford is a big club that should be higher than League Two. It was a superb atmosphere, with a feelings of anticipation and a bit of fear facing a team like Arsenal.
“The fact that we matched them for most of the game shows our quality, and we need to climb up the leagues.”
Bradford Council leader David Green, who said he exchanged some “terse” texts with his Arsenal-supporting brother-in-law during the match, believed it was too early to say if the League Two club’s win could boost the city’s economy, but said it had definitely created a “buzz”.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to today has been talking about it – no-one’s talking about anything else,” he said. “There’s a real buzz in the city and it’s not only created national and international coverage, but also positive coverage of the city, across all the news media.
“I think it’s difficult to say if it will have an impact on the local economy, but I think what it has done has boosted morale and keeps Bradford on the map.
“The city’s on the world stage and we will see what benefits that brings.”
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council’s executive member for culture and tourism, agreed the team’s success had created a “feel good factor” and “confidence” in Bradford.
“A successful football team can create a winning city,” she said. “It has certainly raised Bradford’s profile nationally and internationally and has created a real feel-good factor about the city.”
The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Rev Nick Baines, who followed the game, said the result was an “early Christmas present” for Bradford.
“It’s part of the mood music and I’m sure even people who don’t follow football will be thrilled Bradford have beaten Arsenal,” he said.
“Small packages can pack a big punch and I hope people can be inspired by it.”
During the game, supporters who could not get a ticket flooded into pubs across the city, with some enjoying a special Claret and Amber Ale created by Keighley’s Naylor’s Brewery.
Jeff Wilson, of the company, which renamed its biggest-seller Aire Valley Bitter to mark the occasion, said it was now selling limited edition bottles of the ale after demand from fans.
“I don’t know how much Claret and Amber Ale was sold, but two or three of the pubs that sell it have been in touch to ask if we’ll do it again for the semi-final and I will be getting in touch with Bradford City.
“I was at Valley Parade for the match and it was fantastic. It was a strange one for me because it was my son Elliot’s 11th birthday, and he’s an Arsenal fan – Bradford are his second team!
“But it’s absolutely great for the city. It’s been a long time coming and they definitely deserve it.”