Bradford City’s historic, fairy-tale trip to Wembley ended in heartache as they were emphatically beaten by Swansea City in the Capital One League Cup final.
The Premier League side were ruthless in the manner in which they swatted aside the Bantams, winning 5-0.
Nathan Dyer scored twice, Spanish striker Michu hit the net and Jonathan De Guzman put the icing on the cake with a double, his first a penalty that resulted in Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke being sent off.
Bradford had defied the odds to reach the showpiece final, having been 10,000-1 at the outset of the competition back in August to reach Wembley.
Six rounds and three Premier League scalps in the guise of Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa later, they were 4-1 with some bookmakers to cause another upset against the Welsh side.
In reaching that stage, Bradford became the first side from the fourth tier to reach a major final at the national stadium and their progress was watched eagerly by the tens of thousands who made the journey to Wembley, and tens of thousands more who watched at home or in pubs around the city.
But Michael Laudrup’s Swans proved too strong for a side that was ranked 71 places below them in the football pyramid.
Despite the result, it was still declared a grand day out for the League Two club, their supporters and the city itself.
Thirty-five thousand fans followed the Bantams to Wembley for their first appearance in a major final since winning the FA Cup in 1911. among them ex-pats from Australia, Japan and the United States. In the royal box, Yvonne Lawn took her seat beside husband and Bradford’s joint-chairman Mark, just a month after undergoing a cancer operation.
Before kick-off, Bradford fans unfurled a large flag that read “Always Remember” on it in memory of the 56 people who lost their lives in the Bradford City stadium fire on May 11, 1985.
That was the darkest day in the history of Bradford City Football Club. Today, despite the result, was one of the proudest.
Speaking as he made the journey back up north, Bradford East MP David Ward said: “It was a wonderful day, especially on Wembley Way where there were thousands of supporters.
“Obviously the result didn’t go our way but we’re proud of the team for getting here and proud of ourselves too. With 30 minutes to go, you’d have though we were 5-0 up ourselves.
“I think seeing the underdog do so well and come so far has been a spark not just for the club but for the whole district.”
Bradford were led out by two mascots whose individual stories epitomised their favourite football team’s scrap for existence.
But the joy in little nine-year old cancer survivor Jake Turton and 12-year-old Ryan Siddall, who is only alive after his father donated a kidney, was them actually being there to witness their team become the first fourth-tier side to play in a major Wembley final.
The Yorkshire club, currently 11th in League Two – sandwiched between less-than-glamorous Morecambe and Chesterfield – had hoped for a dream ending to an extraordinary cup run that saw them put paid to the likes of Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan.
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson hailed his players for their success in this year’s competition and only wished they could have made more of a match of the final for their supporters, who he described as “absolutely tremendous”.
He said: “We would love to have made more of a game of it. Conceding the goals when we did made it really difficult for ourselves.
“But Swans are a very good side and what they have done to us today they have done to Premiership teams.
“We’re many places below them in the Football League and it was tough for us today but enormous credit to our boys for getting to the final, it was an incredible achievement.
“We would have loved to have given our supporters something to cheer about, being in the game longer, but we couldn’t. They’re a good side and things didn’t quite go our way, to put it mildly.”
He added: “The highlight was our supporters, throughout the game they kept behind us and they’ve done the city proud, they were absolutely tremendous.”
Parkinson also felt the dismissal of goalkeeper Matt Duke in conceding the penalty that De Guzman scored from was “harsh” with his side already 3-0 down.
He said: “I think in the context of the game the ref could’ve just looked at that and said 3-0 down and a penalty against us, a yellow card would have sufficed, and obviously after that it was game over.”
Bradford will now switch their attention back to their npower League Two campaign.
The club are 11th in the standings on 44 points, eight off the top seven.
Parkinson said: “We’ll dust ourselves down, we’ve enjoyed the experience. We’ve got 15 league games to go and we’ll attack every single one of them in a really positive mindset.”