Simon Parker column

This column should carry an embargo time – best read before 1.30pm.

Because once the Wembley bewitching hour chimes, what I’m about to say could be completely redundant. And more than a little depressing.

Hopefully that will not be the case because every fairytale needs a happy ending.

Wouldn’t have been much of a yarn if Snow White had snuffed it after taking that apple. And what would have been the point of Sleeping Beauty if she’d woken up, stared at the handsome prince and thought “I hope your mate’s better looking...”

Nope, the story of Bradford City 2012/13 will be a tale that will be recited all over the West Riding for years to come. Generations in the future will learn off by heart about James Hanson’s header at Villa Park, Garry Thompson’s blast against Burton and – in terms of the grand finale – Stephen Darby rocketing one in from 25 yards in the last minute at Wembley.

Or a Nahki Wells scuffer from six inches, a Rory McArdle header, an Andrew Davies wind-assisted free-kick. Even, maybe, Alan Connell’s nerveless spot-kick in the shoot-out...

The details of that last page can be worked out in the next couple of hours but you get my drift. If the gods of football have got any soul, they cannot look beyond a victory for those in wishy-washy gold and black.

The League Cup final, to give it the real title, was the pinch-yourself day. Nobody in their right mind could have imagined that Bradford City of League Two would be walking out in the final two of a proper cup competition.

Nobody could have possibly predicted that Bradford City of League Two would be the only English survivors on the day of the final.

I’ve never heard the word “surreal” mentioned more than it was during that magical weekend. It was the ultimate Christmas Day for anyone who bleeds claret and amber.

But shouldn’t today be held in the same esteem?

In terms of grand occasion, the fourth-tier play-off final cannot compete. The gaps in the stands today – a result of the huge financial imposition of paying for two unexpected trips to London – will illustrate that it does not hold the same wow factor as the Swansea showpiece.

But for City to make it to the final two again is almost as remarkable as that fantasy date in February.

When you think how far back they were going into the last nine games of the league campaign, it’s staggering that they clinched seventh spot with a week to spare.

And then came from a goal deficit to dismantle the most imposing home record in the entire three divisions of the Football League to make it back to their ‘second home’.

The players will tell you their faith was never shaken. But look in the mirror – can you say the same as supporters?

I will willingly hold up my hand and admit that I thought the chance was blown on several occasions – mainly on the M5.

Trailing away from Exeter after that costly 4-1 defeat in mid-March, a play-off spot looked as distant a destination as home was on the Tomtom.

Then a fortnight on, despite that Good Friday fightback to take a point from Southend, driving back down to Devon on Easter Sunday seemed more a case of going through the motions than a genuine tilt at gaining ground on the top seven. I couldn’t see any resurrection on the cards.

So that may explain why I’ve never been a Euro lottery millionaire – or even banked the occasional tenner for three of a kind. Mystic Meg’s tea leaves remain in safe hands.

Perhaps I should have listened to Gary Jones.

I had a chat with the skipper in the days after the St James Park disappointment. He was a bit flat from the result but there was still a sparkle in the eyes.

The veteran campaigner was not prepared to hang his shield away just yet.

We talked about the season as a whole up to that point; about the experience of leading City to Wembley and about his eagerness to stay on at the club next season.

I mentioned sorting out “unfinished business” for coming up short in the promotion race this year. He started to agree, then paused and shook his head with a smile.

“We’re talking like this season’s already over,” he said. “It’s going to be hard but nobody’s given it up yet.”

It was what you’d expect any player to say, especially the captain. Nobody wants to go on record as admitting defeat, however unlikely the goal may appear.

But those eyes should have given me a clue. There was a look of determination burning; not just hope.

And if that could be matched by those all around him, maybe City’s prospects weren’t quite as bleak as they appeared.

The answer over the past two months has been emphatic. This team have proved over and over again that they relish seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

Now there is one more hurdle to clear.

If you’re reading this morning, then enjoy what will unfold as best you can. And hopefully by that final whistle, when hands can be removed from face, you will witness scenes of unbridled joy and relief from escaping League Two.

If you’ve picked this up for curiosity or masochistic value after the game – and it’s Northampton doing the partying – then I might just have spouted a load of Cobblers.

Fingers crossed that’s not the case. Have faith in Jones and Co, how can I think otherwise?

This has got to end happily ever after.