Former Bantams trio desperate to avoid making history of a different kind (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Former Bantams trio desperate to avoid making history of a different kind at Northampton
A year ago this weekend, City played out their final game in League Two.
The goalless draw at Cheltenham was a meaningless affair as both sides waited for the play-offs.
The contest, for what it was worth, predictably lived down to its billing.
Phil Parkinson had made eight changes to keep his powder dry for the approaching battles that really mattered.
So we saw the last of Matt Duke in City’s goal – the hero of the Capital One Cup penalty shoot-outs fittingly bowing out with a clean sheet.
It also proved the final league start for Alan Connell, who was typically subbed just after the hour mark.
They could have all shared a pitch again this afternoon but Hines faces at least six months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Their “anniversary” of that City swansong will take place in the humble surrounds of Dagenham & Redbridge.
It is the archetypal League Two ground – the sort of place that the Bantams got to know all too well during their lengthy imprisonment in football’s basement.
Connell produced arguably his best City display there last season, coming off the bench – naturally – to score one and win a penalty, almost inspiring an unlikely comeback.
Today he is likely to take up familiar residence in the away dug-out, once again hoping for a bit-part role.
Unlike Cheltenham last year, the stakes could not be higher for Connell, Ravenhill and Duke.
As Northampton players, this afternoon will be as big as they come for the club.
While they travel to East London, Bristol Rovers host Wycombe. With two games to go, all three clubs are locked on 47 points.
Northampton, with the worst goal difference, occupy the second relegation spot.
Twelve months after sharing the Wembley stage with City in the play-off final, the Cobblers are facing the very real threat of eviction from the Football League.
For Duke, Connell and Ravenhill, the contrast could not be more extreme. Part of the Valley Parade “history makers” of 2012-2013 to members of the Northampton squad that could bring 94 years of football in the top four divisions to a grisly end.
One of the striking images from that glorious Wembley triumph last May was the picture of Connell drinking champagne from the League Two trophy surrounded by his dancing team-mates.
On Monday, he was an unused substitute as Portsmouth inflicted another hugely-damaging home defeat on his current employers.
No wonder footballers are encouraged to savour every moment when things are going well. Unless you’re a superstar playing for one of the big four, those highs don’t tend to come about very often.
Given Northampton’s desperate predicament, three points at Dagenham will spark joyous scenes on and off the pitch. Emotions of relief can be just as powerful as those of celebration.
But I wonder how often those players flick back through the scrap books, switch on the DVD and recall balmier days and occasions that nobody who was part of will ever forget.
The fluctuating fortunes of three former colleagues will not be lost on the present City squad.
For some, this afternoon will mark the last time they sit in Valley Parade’s home dressing room.
Changes are afoot this summer with so many contracts up for renewal. Some will be released, others may find more attractive offers elsewhere.
Whatever happens, the team that wrote their name large in the Bradford City history books will be further dismantled before the first ball is kicked in anger in August.
They will leave behind special memories; not just for the fans but the players themselves.
Two of those currently waiting to hear about their City future, Garry Thompson and James Meredith, sat glued to the screen for the first showing of the wonderful We Made History film earlier this season.
They were as wrapped up in the emotion as the rest of the audience at the Bradford Media Museum when the homage to the supporters on play-off final day was aired.
The pair could see at first hand how much their achievements had meant to the people of the city. That feeling doesn’t just disappear in the space of a few months.
For that reason, the players are guaranteed a generous reception when they embark on the traditional lap of appreciation round the pitch once this afternoon’s final home game is over.
And why Bradford City fans to a man – and woman – will be wishing Northampton every bit of good fortune.
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