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Bradford City lose but are winners with their fans who are proud of historic cup run
With 20 minutes of yesterday’s match remaining, and ten-man City four goals behind, one half of Wembley rose to its feet.
A flag-waving sea of claret and amber cleared their throats and gave a thunderous rendition of ‘Stand up if you love City’.
Raw emotion dripped from supporters young and old.
It came from fathers and sons, and entire families in a Bradford following of well over 30,000.
They rose to their feet to acclaim the achievements of their football club during this most astonishing of cup runs.
It continued for almost the remainder of the game and conjured up quite some image.
It was certainly not done in any kind of hope or expectancy.
Far from it.
The game was long gone, the Capital One Cup heading to Wales, and Phil Parkinson’s men were going home as beaten men.
City’s huge travelling army knew it too, yet their pride was unmistakable.
A sense of pride in a football club and a city that has been forged by this incredible cup odyssey.
That is the power that sport, and perhaps only football, can have on the inhabitants of a town or city.
The Bantams have put Bradford back on the map this season.
Sure, they never came close to the kind of victory that would have been beyond the realms of make believe, even by their own lofty standards.
But, despite the heavy reverse, City’s long-suffering supporters were going to enjoy their moment in the sun.
And who could blame them?
The Bantams yesterday became the first team from the fourth tier to reach a major Wembley cup final.
It will go down as one of the greatest feats in the history of English football, and may never happen again.
The agony of two administrations, three relegations and six years in the doldrums, not to mention several flirtations with oblivion, were all washed away yesterday.
But it went deeper.
This was also an occasion to recognise history.
Shortly before kick-off, a huge banner containing the words ‘ALWAYS REMEMBER’ was passed around the away end, followed by the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
The wider football world tends to forget the events of Valley Parade which saw a fire destroy the main stand on May 11, 1985, leaving 56 people dead.
Nobody in Bradford will ever forget, of course, and yesterday was as much a time to honour the memory of those no longer with us as the achievements of the current side.
It was a bridge too far for Parkinson’s side against a slick and expansive Swansea side bossed by the impressive Michael Laudrup.
But that City were even coming up against such vaunted opposition was testament to what they have achieved this term.
Seeing Parkinson standing shoulder to shoulder with the legendary Laudrup in their respective technical areas brought a smile.
In truth, Swansea were dominant from start to finish and were rightly crowned winners of a competition maligned at times in recent seasons, but which has been given a new lease of life by the team from Valley Parade this term.
Arriving in London early yesterday morning had en- couraged hopes that it was to be City’s day.
Bantams fans flooded the capital in their thousands and it was clear they were going to make the most of the occasion.
Hundreds of groups of City fans bounced out of Kings Cross and onto trains carrying them to the home of English football.
They marched up Wembley Way with passion, energy and belief coursing through their veins.
There was no mistaking the magnitude of the occasion and the noise which emanated from one half of Wembley told a story.
Of a city and a football club immensely proud of their own identity.
Bradfordians and certainly City fans have had next to nothing to be proud of for over a decade.
Until now, that is.
A quick stroll around the city any time in the past few weeks has been proof enough.
Bantams followers wear their scarves with pride again.
They packed out their end of Wembley and the decibel levels increased steadily as Gary Jones led his men on the pre-match warm-up.
Footage of City’s successes in the previous rounds against Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa merely added to an emotionally fraught at- mosphere.
Joint City chairman Mark Lawn saw himself caught on the big screen shortly before kick-off and immediately punched the air to underline his affiliation to the club.
As if there was ever any doubt.
Lawn, along with David and Julian Rhodes, has the club in his heart.
It is to be hoped that Parkinson can now commit his future to the club and mount a concerted charge for promotion.
That would be the perfect way to finish what the highly-impressive 45-year-old has started.
The club is believed to have amassed around £2.5million from the profits of their cup run, laying the foundations for a lasting legacy.
Yesterday was chastening at times for Parkinson’s men as Swansea popped the ball about with their customary swagger.
Laudrup’s men soon led when Michu’s struck a low, left-footed drive which Matt Duke could only parry.
There was Nathan Dyer to slot home the rebound from two yards out.
Despite struggling badly for any decent share of possession, City supporters never gave up hope.
It made for an eerily tense atmosphere at times as the Bantams sought to keep Swansea at bay.
Michu added a second for Swansea five minutes before the break, which was just reward for their bucketloads of possession.
It got worse for the Bantams as Dyer grabbed his second with an outstanding curling effort in the 47th minute.
Shortly before the hour mark, Duke’s trailing leg felled Jonathan De Guzman and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the penalty spot.
Swansea grabbed a fifth in the dying embers when De Guzman buried a low right-wing cross from Angel Rangel.
Sadly for City, one dream is over – leaving them to focus solely on an arguably even bigger prize.