IF the “big fairytale” – as Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup last month referred to Bradford City’s Wembley run – can overcome the “little fairytale” tomorrow, European football will be back on the menu at Valley Parade.
This is the tantalising prospect facing the Bantams, whose previous experience of combat on foreign fields came in the 2000-01 Intertoto Cup.
Then, City edged past Lithuanian outfit FK Atlantas and RKC Waalwijk of Holland before losing 4-0 on aggregate to Zenit St Petersburg in the semi-finals.
As enjoyable as that mini-romp around Europe was, perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Bradford’s brief European run was that 22 visiting Lithuanians used the Atlantas game as cover to seek asylum in the UK.
A debut appearance in next season’s Europa League would, of course, trump that Intertoto adventure and if City’s fairytale does culminate in victory over Swansea, they will at least have one member of the squad familiar with playing in Europe.
City right-back Stephen Darby, one of two Bantams players to have started all seven Capital One Cup ties this term, began his career at Liverpool and made four appearances in the Champions League and Europa League.
He said: “The experience was brilliant. I was about 20, 21 at the time and playing against teams like PSV and Fiorentina. To play for Liverpool against such big clubs was incredible.
“Having said that, I am not thinking that far ahead. We can’t afford to. We have a massive 90 minutes on Sunday so can’t get distracted by Europe or anything like that.”
Darby was one of several important signings made by Phil Parkinson last summer following the defender’s release at Anfield.
He said: “When I left Liverpool, I probably didn’t think something like this could happen so quick. If you look back at the games we have played, we have done really well. We deserve to be here.
“It is a massive ask as Swansea are a great side with top quality players. But nothing can be ruled out. I was fortunate enough to win the (FA) Youth Cup (at Liverpool) and that was nice. But this is a massive achievement.
“Everyone has done their bit. It seems a long time since I scored against Burton, but the way we stuck at it that night shows what we are about.”