Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes reaching a Wembley final this season would be an “absolutely phenomenal” achievement for his young side.
Villa have experienced mixed fortunes so far in what is a transitional first season under Lambert, with top-flight experience at a premium in the Scot’s squad.
The starting line-up against Swansea recently had an average age of just 23 years and 120 days with a number of players having been brought through the academy or recruited from the lower leagues.
They currently sit two places and one point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone, but there remains a feel-good factor around Villa Park, not least with the team in the FA Cup fourth round and two matches away from a possible place in the Capital One Cup final.
They meet Bradford at Valley Parade in the first leg of that semi-final tonight knowing they are heavy favourites to overcome the League Two outfit. Regardless of the level of opposition, though, Lambert knows reaching the final would be huge for the club.
“For this club to get to Wembley again would be extraordinary,” he said. “In a one-off game there you just never know what could happen.
“To get there I think every player would tell you would be absolutely phenomenal.”
Asked whether it would surpass any of his previous achievements, the former Scotland international said: “I think it would, yes.
“I never view it as any great achievement on my own behalf. It’s the players and the fans. I never really look at myself and think `I’m going to do that’ because it is irrelevant. The important thing is what happens to this club and the players.”
Bradford are without a win in their last three games but Lambert knows they will dig in and come up with another ten per cent for the two-legged tie.
“Of course it will,” he said. “It will be a different team to the one that got beaten by Barnet at the weekend. You have to withstand that and be ready for it.
“The Bradford lads will give it everything they have got to try to turn us over. If we do what we have been doing that of late and match that then we’ll see what happens.
“It’s always tough. Bradford have got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Obviously it is a two-legged affair. We’ll go up there and we know it will be a really good atmosphere.
I’ve been up there before and it will be a tough game for us. But if we play we have been of late, we’ll see.”
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ipswich in the FA Cup third round saw the return from injury of established stars Darren Bent, Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor and Lambert admits their progress was just as pleasing as the victory.
“I think that was the pleasing thing from Saturday because those lads only trained with us on Friday and we threw them in,” he said.
“They came through it fantastically well and that was probably the major plus from Saturday. Along with the result that was the most pleasing thing.
“Darren coming back and doing as well as he did that’s what you need from your strikeforce. Andreas Weimann is in a rich vein of form as well and he looks threat every time he is in that box.”
Lambert will be without Marc Albrighton (metatarsal) after his knock against Ipswich while Ashley Westwood, Ron Vlaar and Richard Dunne are still unavailable.