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Bradford City cup run an emotional journey for Mark Lawn
Mark Lawn spent the proudest moment of his Bradford City life dealing with St John Ambulance.
Amid all the chaos and madness of the final whistle at Villa Park, the joint-chairman’s own manic celebration was cut short by the sight of daughter Toni stood stock still.
The secondary-school teacher had suffered a panic attack; her muscles had locked up and then she started shaking.
“I’d been bouncing round for ages and then suddenly we realised that she was the only one not moving,” said the joint-chairman.
“David Baldwin’s busy throwing brandy down her neck – and she doesn’t drink!
“Her fingers and toes had just seized in all the excitement. We got the medical people into the directors’ box, and she was soon okay, but I guess it shows how much it meant to our family.
“The first game when I brought my three eldest girls was Shrewsbury on Boxing Day 1987, a 1-1 draw. So she was only three at the time.
“It’s amazing to think we’re going to get to Wembley. We’ve all waited a long time.”
Just lately, Lawn’s emotions have been thrown all over the place by family and football.
In the week between the two Villa games, his wife Yvonne underwent major surgery as part of her on-going treatment for bowel cancer. She was only discharged from hospital on Monday.
But Yvonne was unable to travel to Birmingham – and the following day received the sombre news that she will need a further course of chemotherapy.
For her husband, it is another challenge to overcome.
Lawn said: “We are both determined to beat this and Yvonne will be with me at Wembley. Even if it means me carrying her on my back, she’ll be there.
“It’s been very up and down for the family and it’s difficult to switch on and off. You’re feeling high one minute and the next very low.”
What is happening away from football puts Bradford City’s achievements into perspective. But it is also a release.
The tension of Tuesday night shook Lawn to such an extent that he threw up on the way to the game after a cup of tea – and he couldn’t touch the fine spread that Villa had laid on in the boardroom.
He said: “The food was excellent, like a five-star hotel, and there were some great wines. But I didn’t have a thing because my stomach was churning.
“Watching was agony until half-time. We got battered that much, Julian (Rhodes) just told me to start relaxing and enjoy the occasion.
“But when James Hanson scored, it was the first time I really started to think “we can go to Wembley”. Suddenly other people were getting more nervous than me.
“I’ve said all along to Yvonne that if we got that one goal, it would be enough. I could see them scoring twice but not three times.”
So the scene is set for the most unlikely cup final Wembley will have ever witnessed. Ten years ago, Swansea City were propping up the entire Football League; the Bantams were nursing their way out of the first administration.
One of the Swansea players of that era, midfielder Leon Britton, was one of the most influential performers in shocking Chelsea in the semi-finals. Then there’s City, the first team from the basement division to reach the Wembley showpiece.
Lawn laughed: “Capital One must be rubbing their hands. There’s no way there’d be the worldwide coverage we’re getting now if it had been Chelsea v Aston Villa.
“In these times of austerity right across the world, it does give people a little inkling that sometimes if you work hard, your dreams can come true. And it’s been a lot of hard work, not just dreaming, by everybody.
“It does make you wonder could we do the same as Swansea and rise up the leagues. Maybe with a lot of hard work we could get back up there one day.
“They are a great footballing side, probably a better one than Chelsea. I don’t think we’re going to get the ball a lot.
“We can’t match them in terms of possession but we will be competitive once again, so it should be a good game for the neutral.
“I’m sure Swansea think their name is on the cup because it’s their centenary year. We’ve got to realise we will be underdogs again and we’re still facing a Premier League side.
“We will have to be at our best again and they’ll have to miss chances.
“But maybe it will also be the team that settles their nerves first. They might be a little bit anxious; it’s not just another game at Wembley for them like it might have been with Chelsea.”
It’s certainly not just another game for City, nor for their larger-than-life co-owner and his family.