PHIL PARKINSON last night hailed his new band of history-makers after Bradford City pulled off one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all-time.
The Bantams, roared on by a 6,000-strong travelling army of fans, stunned Premier League leaders Chelsea by hitting back from two goals down to triumph 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.
Considering the Blues starting XI cost £200m compared to the £7,500 that City had spent on their entire 18-man matchday squad, it is perhaps no wonder that the nation’s football fans have been asking ever since the final whistle blew on Saturday if the humbling of Jose Mourinho’s side represents the biggest shock in the competition’s long history.
For Parkinson, however, the most important aspect of a quite remarkable weekend for Yorkshire football that also saw Middlesbrough knock Manchester City out at the Etihad is that Bradford are in tonight’s fifth-round draw.
He said: “You have to respect Chelsea, but not fear them. That was our mantra. We closed them down, were aggressive in the tackle and we came to ruffle a few feathers.
“Be fair but be physical. That is the way Cup shocks happen. If you stand off them, they will cut you open – similar to what happened at Swansea last week (when Chelsea won 5-0 in Wales).
“We were rewarded for being brave and the second half was like a home game for us with our supporters.
“We always speak about support and sometimes it can be throwaway comments from managers. But the support we get is just incredible. They stayed with us even at 2-0 down.”
City made history in 2013 by becoming the first club from the basement division to reach a major Wembley final.
En route to the League Cup final, the Yorkshire side beat a trio of top-flight clubs in Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic.
Knocking Chelsea out of the Cup, however, tops the lot for a proud Parkinson.
Talking about his own special ones, the Bradford chief said: “Obviously, it is a different team from two years ago, but we have got five or six who went through that cup run and had that great experience.
“The great thing is this group are re-writing the history books again.
“Let’s be fair, we have beaten Leeds (in the Capital One Cup this season) as well and the supporters were telling me that was as big as any other achievement because of the local rivalry.
“So the new lads have had a taste of that already. But this is, obviously, a level above that because of the magnitude of the team we were playing.”
Jon Stead’s strike just before half-time started Bradford’s incredible fightback before Filipe Morais brought the tie level with 15 minutes remaining.
By then, Mourinho had already sent on Cesc Fabregas and Willian from the bench, but it did no good as Andy Halliday put the Bantams ahead with a sublime finish and then Mark Yeates grabbed a fourth deep into stoppage time.
For Halliday, his goal capped a frantic and stressful week that saw the midfielder’s free transfer from Middlesbrough after an initial loan spell only go through two minutes before the deadline to face Chelsea.
The hold-up – which related to sell-on clauses in previous transfers involving the Scot – led to Parkinson planning for the trip to Stamford Bridge without Halliday.
City’s goalscoring hero said: “It has been a crazy week. At one stage, I didn’t think I was going to get back here. The transfer took a lot longer than I thought and part of me thought it wasn’t going to happen.
“Close friends of mine will tell you how much it was getting to me. I was trying my hardest to force it through and thankfully it did. That is testament to Bradford.
“I knew my shot was in from the moment I hit it. I struck it sweetly and to score at the end where all our fans were made it even better.
“We had 6,000 fans at a sold-out Stamford Bridge and that is the best feeling I have ever had.”
On Halliday and not expecting his transfer to be done in time, manager Parkinson said: “Believe it or not, that signing only got completed with two minutes to spare. We were right on the deadline.
“The chairman (Julian Rhodes) kept ringing me all through training saying it hadn’t come through yet. We had to really push to get it done. We kept it from him. Julian kept saying, ‘Don’t let Andy know’.
“I was trying to organise a team and go through the structure of how we were going to play and I wasn’t sure that one of the players was going to be available. It made things difficult.
“But I thought his performance was great. He’s got that athleticism you need against the top teams. He drove us forward with the ball and scored a great goal.”
Halliday’s former club Boro are also through after goals from Patrick Bamford and Garcia Martinez saw off Manchester City, while Sheffield United complete a trio of White Rose sides in tonight’s draw after a 1-1 stalemate at Preston North End.
Parkinson would love to draw Manchester United away, while Halliday said: “We can take on anyone after beating the favourites for the competition on their own ground. There is no one to fear, that’s for sure.”
The exploits of Bradford and Boro capped a remarkable fourth-round weekend that also saw Southampton and Spurs beaten at home and Manchester United held to a goalless draw by League Two Cambridge United.
So many upsets have opened up the possibility of a club emulating West Ham United’s class of 1980 in winning the Cup from outside the top flight. Parkinson added: “It would be great if someone below the Premier League could win it. But it is a tall order.
“It hasn’t happened for so long. When Wigan won the Cup (in 2013), it was a huge shock and they were a Premier League team at the time. Certainly, we are not talking about winning it.
“We just want to use the Cup form to help us in the league. We did it two years ago (when City won promotion) and we have got to do the same again. People talk about fixture congestion, but you can never take days like Saturday and exchange it for a less congested fixtures schedule.
“This is a tough industry and you have to really savour and enjoy days like Chelsea. It has been a great day for the city of Bradford.”
Parkinson, whose only previous visit to Stamford Bridge as a manager had ended in a 3-1 defeat for Colchester during Mourinho’s first spell as manager, added: “Jose came in the dressing room at the end and shook every player’s hand and every member of staff’s. That was a real touch of class.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have made or what your profile is, it still hurts you when you get beaten as a manager. All the lads appreciate he took the time to congratulate them. That is the mark of the man.”