REGARDLESS of what happens in the play-offs, Bradford City have enjoyed another season of progress under Phil Parkinson.
Since taking charge at Valley Parade in August, 2011, the Bantams chief has led the club to an improved league position in each of those five years.
Going from 18th in League Two to seventh place in 2012-13 and promotion via the play-offs was a fine start to his reign and he has since led City to 11th, seventh and now fifth-place finishes in the third tier to continue an upward trend that has also been peppered with some remarkable Cup triumphs.
It is a record that the 48-year-old is justifiably proud of, though he is also at pains to stress that the main concern now is getting past Millwall over two legs and booking a third trip to Wembley in four seasons.
“We are really pleased to have improved the league position each year,” he said. “We were delighted heading back from Southend a couple of weeks ago to know that would be the case.
“It confirmed our play-off place and that brought us a few pats on the back. But now we are focused on going a step further. We have worked exceptionally hard to get here. Now, we have to drive forward.”
Several players have shared a sizeable chunk of Parkinson’s journey as Bantams chief, including captain Stephen Darby.
The full-back joined from Liverpool in the summer of 2012 and has gone on to make more than 200 appearances to play a big part in the club’s rise.
“The record in terms of our league position under the gaffer is unbelievable and that is what you want as a football club,” said Darby. “You want to keep progressing each year. What the gaffer has done over the time he has been here is absolutely fantastic.
“Like most of the players who signed, it was a no-brainer (to join City) once you have had a meeting with the gaffer and seen the ambition and passion he has got.
“Him, (assistant) Steve Parkin, (fitness coach) Nick Allamby and all the coaching staff, what they have achieved over the last four or five years is brilliant. That is credit to the hard work they have put in. I am sure they will say there is plenty more unfinished business as well.”
City will be without Billy Clarke against Millwall due to a fractured cheekbone suffered on the final day, while James Hanson is nursing a calf problem and Reece Burke a groin strain. Steven Davies is back from suspension.