I sound like X Factor winner! Wembley-bound Atkinson on his incredible journey (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City: Wembley-bound Will Atkinson admits he sounds like X Factor winner as he looks back on his best bits
Squint hard enough and Will Atkinson could just about pass himself off as the next James Arthur.
The much-improved City midfielder certainly sounds like an X Factor winner as he tries to absorb the enormity of reaching the Capital One Cup final.
And unlike the candyfloss singers who burst into the public eye and are just as quickly forgotten, what the Bantams have achieved this season will live on in football’s history books.
Sorry Mr Arthur, nothing is Impossible. No wonder that Atkinson dropped into the language of the reality TV wannabe.
“I know it sounds clichéd but it’s been like a journey,” he said. “It’s only later that you’ll realise what we have done and how far we’ve come.
“I sound like an X Factor contestant but it’s been incredible. It will take a long, long time to sink in.”
Atkinson could be excused for enjoying the Wembley limelight more than most. After enduring a tough Bantams baptism on loan last season, he could never have foreseen a run like this in his wildest dreams.
Look at the starting line-up from City’s corresponding fixture this time last year at Bristol Rovers. Atkinson and the front two are the only likely survivors when Phil Parkinson names his first 11 at Fleetwood tomorrow.
Having endured some really wretched moments, Atkinson has come out the other side. But he admits the enormity of the cup run will only be appreciated in years to come.
“Seeing Bradford City all over the back pages of the national papers will take a long time to get your head round.
“That will probably only happen when you’ve retired and then look back. What we’ve done being a League Two team getting to a major cup final, I don’t think it will ever be achieved again.
“It’s beyond belief but at the moment we’re just riding the wave of it.”
City have already made their mark as the first team from the fourth tier to knock off three top-flight opponents in the same League Cup campaign. Those nights against Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa are special memories that Atkinson will never forget.
He added: “I remember the incredible feeling when we won at Wigan with 5,000 Bradford supporters there. Going away to a Premier League side and defending like we did was fantastic and I didn’t think it could get any better than that.
“Then when the Arsenal team sheet came in the dressing room I was thinking ‘we’ve had a good run, let’s enjoy it’. But we thoroughly deserved to put them out.
“And nobody fancied us against Villa. Maybe in a one-off game anything is possible but over two legs you’d expect their quality to overcome us.
“The talk was just to stay in it after the first leg. Make sure we go to Villa with something to play for; we’d probably even have taken a one-goal deficit just to say that we were still in the tie.
“But to get that win at home really set it up. We knew we could do it and went down there and defended with our lives.”
Parkinson has thrown down the Wembley gauntlet for the next four league games. Atkinson knows final places are up for grabs.
“We’ve got important games between now and the final. It’s business as normal – or as normal as it can be.
“Everyone will want to be in that team come February 24. These games are our chance to prove we should get the shirt.”