It is considered by many to be the greatest upset in FA Cup history.
Some say otherwise; whether it’s Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal side falling victim to Wrexham in 1933, Sunderland defeating Leeds in the 1973 Final, Sutton United seeing off Coventry City in 1989 or a Ronnie Radford inspired Hereford United’s win over Newcastle in 1972, the debate could rumble on for ages.
Whatever your view, one thing is for certain – on January 24th, 2015, Bradford City shocked the world by defeating Premier League champions, Chelsea, in their own back yard – after being 2-0 down.
It was no fluke, either. Jose Mourinho’s men flexed their muscles early on, racing into a two-goal lead, courtesy of Gary Cahill and Ramires, but from the moment Jon Stead equalised four minutes from the end of the first half, the Bantams overpowered their opponents, adding three further goals in the second half through Filipe Morais, Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates, leaving the Blues shell-shocked and out of the cup.
One year on, it’s still hard to believe it actually happened. Of course, Bradford went on to make the Quarter-Finals of the competition, after seeing off Sunderland in Round Five, but even if Phil Parkinson’s side had made the Final, you have to wonder whether that would’ve eclipsed the euphoria of that January afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
“I still can’t believe it happened!” said Bradford fan, Kate Eveleigh.
“We’re struggling for goals at the moment – we couldn’t score for toffee against Bury – so to think we scored four against the Champions that season is amazing. Chelsea have obviously been disappointing since, so there’s a joke amongst our fans that we started the slide. Whilst that might not be strictly true, I do think we showed other teams that there is nothing to fear at Stamford Bridge – we’ll always remember that day!”
Since that amazing day, the last twelve months at Valley Parade have been a mixture of highs and lows. After beating the Mackems in the last 16 of the FA Cup, Reading put a stop to the Bantams’ charge in the last 8, winning 3-0 in a replay at the Madejski, after a goalless draw in the initial tie.
When asked whether it was a disappointment to go out to Championship opposition after beating Chelsea, Kate said: “Not really. When the draw was made, Reading were the team most of us wanted to avoid, because we thought they’d be the most challenging – being a non-Premiership side themselves and being in a similar position, where they probably didn’t expect to be in the semi-final, so in a sense also had nothing to lose.”
“We were just pleased to get to the Quarter Final, although, it was disappointing to lose the replay in the manner that we did.”
After their cup exit, the Bantams looked to sneak into the League One play-offs, but ultimately fell short, finishing 7th in the table. With so many rescheduled games due to their cup exploits, Kate agreed that the run probably cost the club a shot at promotion to the second tier.
“Possibly. We were right in it until the last few weeks – perhaps so many rescheduled games took their toll. Personally, I wouldn’t change what happened, though!”
As far as ins and outs go, out of the four history makers at Stamford Bridge, only one remains at the club – Filipe Morais.
Kate explained: “(Mark) Yeates was released and (Jon) Stead and (Andy) Halliday opted to sign contracts elsewhere. The major departure was Andrew Davies, who’s now at Ross County. In the summer, we signed Josh Morris, Paul Anderson and Devante Cole [who has since moved on to Fleetwood Town] and Reece Burke, Lee Evans and Kyel Reid are on loan with us until the end of the season.”
The man behind all of those deals is Bradford City’s manager, Phil Parkinson.
After being the mastermind behind a Capital One Cup Final appearance, as well as the upsets over Chelsea and Sunderland last season, ‘Parky’ has near god-like status at Valley Parade. However, as is the case with some football fans up and down the country, past glories mean nothing when things start to go pear-shaped.
“Our form at the moment is awful”, said Kate. “We just can’t seem to score. Parkinson does seem stubborn in some of his tactics and selections. There are some factions of the crowd (I’m not one of them at the moment) who do think he’s done as much as he can, but I think in terms of progression, he’s done really well. [The game against Bury] was his 250th game; if you compare where we were then and what his first team selection was, the transformation is incredible. He’s also given us a handful of wonderful memories!”
Despite the lack of goals (26 in 25 games), the Bantams find themselves in 10th position in the League One table, just five points off of Millwall in sixth place, with two games in hand.
Kate believes that a top half finish would be good enough for her side this season. “I don’t think we’re scoring enough goals to make a serious play-off push and other teams are starting to pull away, so we’ll probably just miss out again.”
“I think we’ll finish outside the play-offs but in the top half, which would be fine for me as I never expect promotion – but others might be disappointed!”
Next up for the Bantams is a home game with Barnsley (Jan 26th), before they welcome Fleetwood Town to Valley Parade four days later (Jan 30th).