RORY McARDLE is eyeing a Yorkshire double in the play-offs.
A cornerstone of the Bradford City defence for the past four years, the 29-year-old is eagerly looking forward to Sunday’s semi-final first leg tie against Millwall at Valley Parade.
Before that, though, there is tonight and the club he has supported since a boy getting their own promotion deciders under way in the Championship.
McArdle will not be at Hillsborough for Sheffield Wednesday’s encounter with Brighton & Hove Albion, the preparations for City’s own tie have to hold sway.
But he is fervently hoping that the Owls can take a significant step towards what would be a notable double for the county.
“I am a Wednesday fan,” the Northern Ireland international, a former youth team player at Hillsborough, told The Yorkshire Post. “We weren’t in the play-offs until 2005 so that was my first taste.
“I was at Cardiff for the final (against Hartlepool United). All the youth teams lads went and it was a great day.
“Getting to see everything from pitchside was a real eye-opener. Hartlepool had a man sent off late on and we scored twice (in extra-time) to get back to the Championship.
“All the celebrations for winning promotion were great. Wednesday are there again in the play-offs this season and I hope they can push on.
“There is a lot of financial backing now, which is what you need in the Championship. Let’s hope they can get back in the Premier League.”
As keen as McArdle will be to follow events in his home city tonight, Bradford’s meeting with Millwall is occupying his thoughts. This will be his fourth taste of the play-offs as a player.
The first two came at Rochdale, the club he joined from Wednesday, and ended in disappointment.
Eight years ago, McArdle did score at Wembley in the League Two final but Dale lost 3-2 to Stockport County. Twelve months later, the Lancashire club’s hopes were ended over two legs by Gillingham.
A move to Aberdeen followed just a few weeks after that 2-1 aggregate loss to the Gills and it took the switch to Bradford in 2012 to put McArdle back on the path towards the play-offs.
It proved third time lucky, too, for the defender, who was part of the City side that beat Northampton Town at Wembley after overcoming a 3-2 first leg deficit to beat Burton Albion in the semi-finals.
“The play-off games are intense and so is the atmosphere,” he added.
“It is probably something you won’t experience in any other games during a season.
“They are the only football matches being played because the leagues are over and that means everyone is watching on Sky.
“The big thing is not to get carried away. The semi-finals are over two legs and things can change a lot over that time. Just look at what we went through in 2013. That was a real slog against Burton and we found the first game tricky.
“Personally, I sense a feeling similar to 2013 around the club. Without getting carried away with ourselves, we know we are a match for anyone – especially when Valley Parade is bouncing, like recently against Walsall (when Bradford won 4-0).
“Teams find it quite intimidating so it is important we capitalise on that. We need to give the fans something to cheer about.”