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Villa should not order Wembley suits just yet
Simon Parker column
Phil Parkinson is always keen to know what the opposition have to say for themselves.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Arsenal or Aldershot next up, the City boss will insist on checking the appropriate club websites and local newspapers for titbits of team news and the occasional incendiary quote that can be recycled for motivational purposes prior to kick-off.
But he didn’t need to tap in Google to predict Aston Villa’s reaction to their Capital One Cup pairing.
Parkinson called it the “perfect” semi-final draw for his band of merry giant-killers – and then guessed that their future opponents would be thinking exactly the same.
He stated: “They’ll be jumping for joy in Birmingham. Villa will be ecstatic at drawing Bradford but I don’t mind that.”
For a Premier League club, two games against a team from three divisions lower down looks as close to a bye as you could ever get at this stage of a major cup competition. Only a fool would deny it.
But then, maybe Wigan and Arsenal harboured the same thoughts in the two previous rounds ...
Scan some of the Aston Villa message boards and you’d think they were already at Wembley.
One or two fans had even boasted about booking their hotels in London straight away, although the fact that Villa are scheduled to play at Arsenal that weekend in the Premier League does water down that arrogant stance.
Nonetheless, Villa can contemplate a ninth appearance in the League Cup final with some confidence.
Upsets do happen, as we’ve been so fortunate to witness on two glorious Tuesday nights, but rarely over two matches.
And the presence of the away goals rule if extra time at the end of the second leg does not find a winner makes the penalty shoot-out – the domain where City do reign supreme – a more distant target.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink hardly let slip any state secrets when asked for his reaction to the draw he had just helped make.
The former Leeds striker smiled: “Bradford will be pleased with that but not as much as Villa.”
So Villa could be excused for making a few sly calls to the tailor to get the Wembley suits measured up in good time.
I can’t see that being the case, especially given that Paul Lambert is in charge; the same Lambert who managed the last League Two side to go all the way to the last four in 2007.
Wycombe then, like City, were given a home start against heavily-favoured opposition. They responded with a tremendous 1-1 draw in front of a full house before predictably succumbing 4-0 in the Stamford Bridge follow-up.
But Wycombe departed with heads held high and pockets bulging from milking their moment to the max. City can expect to do the same.
Most clubs prefer to play the home tie second so you know what to chase. But in the case of the rank outsider, kicking off on your own soil guarantees the best possible pay-day.
Valley Parade will be rammed to the rafters on January 8. With everything to play for, everyone will want to be there.
Had the roles been reversed, would that still have been the case if City had taken a bit of a beating at Villa Park beforehand?
This way, you can plan for two sell-outs. Even if Villa emerge comfortable winners in West Yorkshire – and that’s a big if with this City team – then the gate in Birmingham will surely be touching capacity as the home side warm up for Wembley.
And just imagine what it will be like at Villa Park if the tie is balanced on a knife-edge at the halfway point?
It’s a topic of conversation that will dominate every football-loving household in Bradford over Christmas. Ten days on from Arsenal, it still feels like we are all living a dream.
Parkinson, meanwhile, has declared a state of lockdown in the dressing room. Once more, all talk of cup ties will be off limits as he focuses on a crucial stretch of five successive league games.
It worked a treat before Arsenal as City lost only one of the 11 matches between the draw and the quarter-final itself. With so many games coming up in such a short space of time, there is little danger of minds wandering too far astray before January 8.
And anyway, the semi-final outcome is a foregone conclusion. Isn’t it?