FOOTBALL LEAGUE chairman Greg Clarke believes Bradford City’s run to Wembley can act as an inspiration for all their fellow clubs.
The Bantams have made history by battling through to tomorrow’s Capital One Cup final against Swansea City.
No other team from the basement division has reached a major final at the national stadium and 35,000 fans are set to converge on north London from Yorkshire in a mood to party.
Whether City’s fairytale run will get the happy ending those travelling hordes want remains to be seen, but League chairman Clarke believes Phil Parkinson’s men are already winners in the eyes of football fans everywhere.
Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post at the League’s headquarters in central London, Clarke said: “What Bradford have done is an inspiration to the entire Football League and probably some Premier League clubs, too.
“The Capital One Cup is a competition where a smaller team can – through determination, leadership, commitment and a bit of luck – go a long way.
“But to actually make the final like this is a spectacular over-achievement that does wonders for the competition.
“There is always the chance of an anodyne final. A couple of big teams means a nice day out for their fans, who go there all the time. So, nothing unduly special.
“Bradford v Swansea certainly does not fall into that category.
“This is two clubs living the dream with the biggest day out their fans will have ever had.”
Ahead of the final, Clarke admits to being pleased for Bradford’s two chairmen with Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn having ploughed millions of pounds into keeping the club going.
The League chief added: “Julian and Mark are people really trying to do the right thing by their football club. That, to me, epitomises what the Football League is all about.
“Real football, real fans, real owners. Emotionally committed people who see themselves as stewards of the club. They are trying to make it as good as they can for the next generation, hopefully with a nice shiny cup in the cupboard.”
As Yorkshire’s fifth League Cup finalist, Bradford will tomorrow make history as the first team from the basement division to compete in a major final at Wembley.
Victory over the Swans would not only bring the club’s first silverware since the 1911 FA Cup final, but also earn a place in next season’s Europa League.
Clarke added: “No matter what the result in the final, Bradford’s run has been wonderful.
“As we all know, the club has had its ups and down over the years. From the tragedy of the fire to the days in the Premier League and, more recently, struggling to survive in League Two. So, to see such a wonderful old club with such a proud history at a Wembley final with a European place as the prize is just fantastic.”
City’s success in this season’s Capital One Cup has already served as a major boost for a competition now into its sixth decade.
Not only has their run to Wembley – and, more specifically, the victories over Arsenal and Aston Villa – created headlines around the world, it has also brought a successful start to Capital One’s four-year sponsorship deal.
Clarke added: “I have always been a big fan of the League Cup – or the Capital One Cup to go by its current manifestation. I sit in a lot of Premier League grounds watching our clubs in action.
“If the Football League team wins, the Premier League aren’t half upset. It really matters. I saw that at the Bradford v Arsenal game.
“Ivan Gazidis (Gunners chief executive) went up there and he needed to win that game because Arsenal have to win something.
“But after Arsenal had lost, as disappointed as he clearly was, he was also spectacularly magnanimous. He was 10 out of 10 in terms of how he behaved.
“He wasn’t condescending or patronising. He told the Bradford guys that they had deserved to win.
“I came away thinking, ‘That is the sort of person who clubs should be led by’. You can imagine what he felt like inside, after probably thinking beforehand, ‘We are through to the semi-final, what’s next?’
“So, I do know how much this competition means to not just Football League clubs but the Premier League ones as well. It is a big deal.”
Capital One Cup final special: Pages 4 and 5.