IT WAS a simple message from one Yorkshireman to other and displayed a touch of post-match class not in keeping with some sad scenes which tarnished the end of Saturday’s play-off final between Bradford City and Millwall.
At the final whistle, Lions striker Lee Gregory made a beeline for Bradford defender and fellow Sheffielder Rory McArdle and took the time out to provide a spot of solace and inspiration for the White Rose outfit.
That Gregory thought of a vanquished rival at a dark moment juxtaposed markedly with the actions of several Millwall fans around him, who invaded the pitch and gesticulated towards a number of Bradford players in unsavoury images that did the game no good at all.
The forward’s message to McArdle referenced that same empty feeling in the pits of the stomach which Millwall players had felt on the Wembley turf almost 12 months earlier after a 3-1 play-off final loss to Barnsley – and how things can turn around.
It was a gesture not in keeping with the events which were going on around Gregory and one which was appreciated.
McArdle said: “To be fair, Lee said: ‘Keep your head up, this time last year that was us’ and look at what they have achieved. It can be done.
“Obviously, everyone is disappointed now. But it is important we reflect on how well we have done and how far we have got and try and do better next season.
“We will give it a couple of weeks and, in hindsight, it has been a successful season.
“We always say that we will try and improve each year and since I have been at the club, we have done that. We got to the semis last year and this year, it is the final and, hopefully next year, we can go one step further.”
It remains to be seen if McArdle is part of next season’s journey with the Bantams, with the centre-half, who turned 30 recently, out of contract next month.
It is one of those things, they are trying to provoke you and you cannot react to it, can you? You have got to stay away, bite your tongue and get on with it.Bradford City’s Rory McArdle
For his part, the stopper, a hugely popular figure among the claret and amber, would like to stay put at a club where he has become part of the fabric, with his future likely to be addressed shortly along with those of several other key players whose deals expire, including James Meredith and Mark Marshall.
On whether he would like to stay, McArdle, one of just two survivors along with Meredith who lined up in Bradford’s League Two play-off final win over Northampton Town at Wembley in May 2013, said: “Yes, that is it. But it is not entirely up to me.
“But I would like to stay as I have been here a long time and I am enjoying it and the club is going in the right direction, which is important.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. It is not really an immediate consideration at the minute. As the dust settles, we will see what happens and go from there.
“I just want to get over this and then everyone will calm down and have a think and we will see what happens.”
McArdle went close with a first-half header for City and was also off target with a good second-half opportunity, but on a day when the margins between both sides were always likely to be tight, it was the Londoners who made the decisive breakthrough late on.
“I should have done better (in the second half), to be honest,” added McArdle. “It was a little bit high and I was trying to keep it down.
“It was tight as it was in previous meetings this year with two draws and the longer the game goes on at 0-0, you know that if and when someone does score, it is not going to leave you too long to get back into it.
“It is fine lines in tight games like that. You look at their goal, there was a bit of a nick at the front post and it bounced straight on Morison’s foot. We didn’t really get that little bit of luck and it was disappointing from our view.”
Bradford’s players’ misery was compounded by the sight of Millwall supporters rubbing their noses in it shortly after the final whistle, with the scenes harking back to those at The Den in the second leg of the play-off semi-final last Spring when sections of home fans again let their club down by pouring onto the pitch and accosting Bradford players.
Just as on that day, the words were foul-mouthed and tiresome.
McArdle added: “You didn’t have to be a specialist lip reader to see what they were saying.
“It is one of those things, they are trying to provoke you and you cannot react to it, can you? You have got to stay away, bite your tongue and get on with it.
“It is the same old thing with (some of) their fans, isn’t it.
“We had it last year in the second leg and I remember late on when the ball had gone out of play and fans went onto the pitch and the game had not actually finished.
“It is not just the Bradford side of it, but Millwall as well. I remember Steve (Morison) last year saying: ‘get off the pitch, it is not done.’
“I don’t know what you can do. They (Millwall) have probably got a massive list of fans (names). But once one runs on, they all follow.
“To do it at a place like Wembley is poor really. Like Steve said, he is disappointed as a player as are 80 per cent of their fans and it just spoils it.
“When they wanted to celebrate, they had their fans running around and they had to get them off the pitch and they were probably embarrassed for their other fans.”