He had arguably the quietest Wembley of any City player but the ultimate result probably meant more to Jon McLaughlin than any of his team-mates.

The unassuming goalkeeper was not complaining that the bulk of Saturday’s play-off final was played out in the Northampton half.

When called upon, McLaughlin punched the long throw-ins confidently and claimed his crosses. And there was a nifty clearing header on the edge of the box that Andrew Davies would have been proud of.

But for the most part, the 25-year-old could savour the occasion as City turned promotion into a cakewalk. As the longest-serving member of the squad, he was entitled to enjoy the moment.

For McLaughlin has been with City for every minute of their six-season slog in League Two.

Originally brought in by Stuart McCall to train with the keepers while still on the books of Harrogate Railway, he has experienced all the frustration and under-achievement of previous campaigns.

“It’s been six long years – and it sure has felt like a long time,” admitted McLaughlin. “So you do feel exactly what the fans are going through.

“Every season they’ve been hoping for what we’ve finally done this year. It’s been long overdue.”

Crowd-pleasing Jamaican Donovan Ricketts was in the City goal for the first outing in the basement division against Macclesfield at Valley Parade in August 2007. Expectation was high on the back of McCall’s return as manager and the crowd was swelled by the new cheap season-ticket initiative.

But the party went flat when the visitors scored after nine minutes and it needed a late rebound from a saved penalty for City to rescue a point. It was an early warning of the trouble they would encounter.

McLaughlin said: “You come down as the big fish in the small pond. Everyone thinks it’s going to be a breeze with the resources you supposedly have, the money, the fans and the huge stadium.

“But if anything, every team that comes to you wants more than anything to win that game. Whatever happens that season they want to say they’ve beaten Bradford, the big guns, at Valley Parade.

“The longer it goes on the tougher it gets. Season by season the fans start to feel it, the club start to feel it, it gets to the players. That builds the pressure because it’s going on too long and it becomes harder to rectify.”

But rectified it has been – and how. Two hundred and 76 games in League Two (count them and weep) were exorcised in 28 glorious first-half minutes.

McLaughlin added: “This has been an amazing season. In my entire time at this club, I’ve been praying for a moment like this.

“We know how fantastic the fans are and the people who work at this club – they deserve success so much and we were just dying to give that to them.

“At the start of the season, we were up there near the top three and everyone was thinking this is definitely going to be the year.

“Then with everything’s that happened, maybe the focus was taken away from it. But it’s just been incredible that the group have shown so much character to keep going through 64 games.”

McLaughlin believes that group has been the key to City’s success. Nahki Wells, Gary Jones and the like may dominate the headlines but this glorious campaign has been built on a squad mentality and everyone has had their role.

“It’s been a season where the sheer strength throughout the entire squad has been unprecedented. We’ve not had that at this club before where, no matter what happens, if someone comes into the side they’ve been just as good.

“If anything, the player coming in has felt aggrieved that they’ve not been playing in the first place. There’s been no weak link.

“There’s no guy coming in that the opposition can expose as somebody to exploit.

“If you’re going to play this many games in a season, you need to have an entire squad that are ready to go every week. There are going to be injuries, times when people are tired, dips in form but not a single player has let us down – everyone has been fantastic.

“At the club awards do, they kept using the phrase ‘we made history’. It might sound like a cliché but it’s true.

“It has been an historical season. And no matter where the club are in the future and whatever division they are in, people will be looking back at this as an incredible time. These are memories that nobody will ever forget.

“It’s the same as players. Wherever you go, you’ve always got that amazing feeling to know ‘there I am, I was a small part of something incredible’ – and it’s been a great ride to be on.”

McLaughlin’s appearance at Wembley – his second this season after coming on in the Capital One Cup final when Matt Duke was red-carded – was his 32nd start of the season. The fact that he played exactly the same amount of game time as his rival and goalkeeping coach underlines how this has been such a team effort.

Duke was thrust into the national limelight for his Premier League-defying cup exploits, saving penalties against Wigan and Arsenal and defying Aston Villa time after time at Valley Parade. But McLaughlin’s role in the momentum-building run-in towards the play-off final, while not so eye-catching, proved equally pivotal.

Both are coming out of contract next month and there is no guarantee what will happen. But as City finally put up their feet for a well-earned breather, McLaughlin intends to let everything they have achieved sink in.

“It would have felt like a terrible summer if it had all been for nothing; if you’d had only a four-week break and then had to go back to preparing for League Two again.

“Now those four weeks are going to fly by because you’re itching to get back and look at that fixture-list when it comes out. You want to see when we’re going to be at Molineux and Sheffield United and when teams like Wolves are going to come to Valley Parade.

“We’ll just be raring to go and people are going to want to come and play for this club. It’s going to be fantastic to get that season started.”