FOR Garry Thompson, 2013 is a year he will never forget.
Two visits to Wembley and a promotion success with Bradford City will see to that. As will, the midfielder admits with a smile on his face, the memory of an appearance in a national tabloid newspaper dressed as James Bond.
“It was Matt Duke’s idea,” said the 33-year-old when asked about the photoshoot with The Sun that appeared 24 hours before the Bantams’ historic appearance at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final.
“He set it up as a bit of a laugh and I went along. It was during the week of the final. I had my photo taken but didn’t tell any of the family, not even the missus. I thought it’d be a nice surprise for them all.
“So, when my ‘phone rang that Saturday morning, I knew what it would be about even before she said, ‘What are you doing in The Sun?’
“My wife Chelsy thought it was great fun, as did all my mates. It was certainly something to remember the weekend by.”
Dressing as 007 apart, 2013 will always be remembered around Bradford as the year the city’s football club regained their sense of pride on the national stage.
With just a week remaining and two games – the first of which is at home to Rotherham United today – Thompson admits that the past 12 months will take some beating for anyone involved at Valley Parade.
He said: “A year like this would be hard for anyone to top, to be honest. Not with the Capital One Cup final, the two semi-finals against Aston Villa, winning the play-offs and now being involved in another promotion chase.
“So many moments stand out, such as the sheer delight on the faces of all the fans after we had won promotion. It was brilliant. I knew we were well supported as a club but I didn’t realise just how well until the celebrations.”
Today’s visitors to Valley Parade enjoyed their own promotion success in 2013, a late season run of five straight wins being enough to power Steve Evans’s men up to runners-up spot.
One of those victories during that late surge up the table came against Bradford. It was one of just two losses in the final 15 games of the regular season for Phil Parkinson’s men, a run that made light of the physical toil that comes with playing 64 games – the highest tally in the country behind Chelsea.
Thompson missed just eight of those games – only James Hanson played more times – so insists the demands of a festive season programme will not faze City.
He said: “It is amazing to think by this stage last year that we had played an extra 10 games. And two or three of those had gone to extra-time.
“When you put it like that, we should maybe have felt really tired. But – and I am sure all the lads would agree with this – we never did.
“That is why even a period like Christmas and New Year, when we play four games in a short period, doesn’t worry us. We got used to playing two or three games a week.
“We showed huge hunger and desire to play 64 games last season and go on and produce. We have taken that on to this season and are in a good position to push on.
“The table shows we are just outside the play-offs at the moment. But, as we proved last season, we are a squad who can finish strongly in the second half of a season and I don’t think anyone can rule out automatic promotion. It is certainly within our reach, providing we go on the sort of run that I know we are capable of building.”
Promotion, the target before a ball had been kicked way back in the summer of 2012, was the undoubted highlight of last term for Bradford.
But there can be no denying just how special the club’s run to the League Cup final was for all involved, as Thompson admits.
He said: “You only have to look at the make-up of the semi-finals this year. Four Premier League clubs, including both Manchester City and United. Last year, three Premier League clubs got there and us.
“This time, I don’t think any team from Leagues One and Two even reached the quarters. We did it the hard way last time, too.
“By beating three Premier League clubs, including Villa over two legs. We also went to extra-time against Notts County and Burton in the early rounds, so we definitely earned all the praise that came our way for reaching the final.
“Obviously, none of us will forget last year because of that.
“But it would be great to push on in the new year and bring even more success to Bradford City in 2014.”
Last six games: Bradford City DWDDDL, Rotherham United WWLLWD.
Last time: Bradford City 0 Rotherham United 2; April 16, 2013; League Two.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).