FOR Bradford City, last season had a little bit of everything.
Two Wembley trips, a host of stirring Cup triumphs against Premier League opposition and then being thrown out of the FA Cup before being reinstated on appeal were just some of the ups and downs that contributed to the 2012-13 campaign at Valley Parade,
Most important of all, of course, was promotion back to League One being clinched on the never-to-be-forgotten afternoon of May 18 when Northampton Town were swept away with contemptuous ease during a truly scintillating opening half-hour.
At times, so head-spinning were the events of a season that brought 64 games and a lifetime of memories that even those involved struggled to keep up. Come the summer, therefore, it was perhaps understandable that all Phil Parkinson’s squad wanted to do was get away and recharge the batteries on a beach with the family.
A consequence was the players’ much-publicised end-of-season trip to Las Vegas – offered by an elated joint chairman Mark Lawn in the Villa Park dressing room just moments after City had created history by reaching the League Cup final – fell by the wayside.
“With the craziness of everything that happened last season, the trip just got lost,” goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin told the Yorkshire Post earlier this week when asked what happened to the squad’s grandiose plans.
“People have families and with the close season being so short, they needed to get away on holidays with them. With all the games we played and then getting to the play-off final, there just wasn’t the time to fit anything in.
“And we were all adamant that everyone had to go. We didn’t want anyone left out. But we have been promised that the funds are still there so, hopefully, we can do something about it in the future. Maybe at the end of the season.
“What we have said, as a group, is that if we can sort something out, then all the lads who were involved but have since left the club will have to come along as well.
“Lads like Will Atkinson, Matt Duke and Zavon Hines. They all played a massive part in what we achieved as a group last season.
“So, I suppose we will have to make it a reunion.”
The insistence that even those players who have since moved on to new clubs must be part of a possible trip to Sin City speaks volumes for the spirit that kept City going during the incessant Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday treadmill of last season.
This togetherness has since played a part in Bradford making their mark on the club’s return to League One after a six-year absence with Parkinson’s men found in the play-off places ahead of the weekend programme.
The only black spot is that the FA Cup defeat to Rotherham United a week ago – when McLaughlin was outstanding to ensure City’s losing margin was restricted to three goals – means it is six games since the club last tasted victory.
Should Coventry City leave Valley Parade tomorrow with any kind of reward, it will be the longest run the Bantams have gone without a win in Parkinson’s two or so years at the helm.
McLaughlin said: “We have had a tough four or five weeks of late, with some difficult fixtures and injuries being a problem for the first time. We have also lost a couple of players on international duty.
“It shows what a great start we had that we are still in the top six, even though we haven’t won for a while.
“We knew it would be a tough season, as we were moving up a level. I have heard a lot of people say there isn’t a big difference between Leagues One and Two, and that the standard is similar.
“But I don’t agree. I think there has been a noticeable difference, both in terms of the other teams and the grounds we are playing at.
“We have come up against some really good teams and we expect Coventry to be in that category on Sunday.
“Sky screening the game shows that this is a big fixture between two good clubs.”
Coventry will arrive in Yorkshire tomorrow as the division’s form team. Unbeaten in six league outings, the Sky Blues have overcome the considerable handicap of starting the campaign on minus 10 points and having to play ‘home’ games at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium.
But for the deduction, Steve Pressley’s side would sit fourth in the table rather than 11th and it seems likely that the Midlands club will have a big role to play in the promotion race.
Bradford, too, are hoping to do the same as they look to continue the considerable momentum of last season.
McLaughlin, the longest-serving player at Valley Parade after making his debut in 2008, said: “Our fans deserve to see us higher. Even though we were struggling near the wrong end of League Two for a couple of years, the crowds stayed high.
“Last season was definitely for those fans. Hopefully, it rewarded all the loyalty that they showed us. I am sure they enjoyed it as much as we did.
“We made headlines all over the world. It was nice for the lads to experience what it must be like for Premier League players, who are in the national media all the time.
“I didn’t have any unusual and random requests, unlike some of the other lads. They had a few photo-shoots and got a bit of stick off the rest of us, as a result.
“I’ve obviously been here quite a while now. I feel a lot of pride in being the longest serving player. So many players came and went during that time so to still be here means a lot.
“James Hanson (City’s second longest-serving player) is the same. We both have a real connection with Bradford City, that goes beyond the team that you play for.
“That is why we are both desperate for the club to keep moving forward. We’ve been here when it felt like Bradford City couldn’t drop any further.”