Bradford’s semi-final hero James Hanson was left helpless at Wembley as Premier League Swansea eased to victory but the striker will still look back with pride. Leon Wobschall reports.
JAMES HANSON admits that he and his Bradford City side suffered from a spot of stage-fright at Wembley Stadium yesterday on an afternoon which saw Swansea City produce an irresistible performance to firmly dash the Bantams’ dreams of a first piece of major silverware since 1911.
City worked wonders just to reach the showpiece, but the wonderful, exhilarating run ended yesterday with the Swans full value for their emphatic 5-0 scoreline.
Throughout the week, City worked tirelessly on the training ground to try to come up with ways of countering the threats posed by the Swans.
But on the day, the Premeir League side’s fluid passing style and sublime skills proved too much for Phil Parkinson’s troops.
Hanson, hero of the semi-final second leg at Villa Park and the one who started City’s cup adventure at Notts County in round one, said: “Definitely, I think there was a little bit of stagefright. We did try to frustrate them, but they were too good and just passed it around us and we couldn’t deal with it.
“We worked on things in training all week and knew their front three would cause us problems. But they were just so clever in exploiting any space.
“We knew what they were going to do, but just couldn’t stop them.
“When we got the ball, we didn’t do enough with it. We saw the DVDs which showed that Swansea were so good at pressing the ball when they don’t have it. At times, we were forced to go long in the first half and it was tough.
“But we cannot be too hard on ourselves. The lads did superbly well to get this far.
“We knew what to expect, but just could not do anything about it against a very good side – the best we have played this season.
“They punished us with nearly every chance they had.
“We tried to let them have the ball at the back. But they have got that many good players on the ball, it was a case of me and Nakhi (Wells) playing against six of them at times.
“They were just running rings around us, to be honest, and we couldn’t get near them all over the pitch.
“We knew they would put balls in behind us and use the pace they have got. But we could not do anything about it.
“The gaffer put on the dressing-room board before we went out, ‘You have nothing to lose and everything to gain’.
“Maybe we just gave them a bit too much respect as they passed it around us.”
Most sets of supporters would berate their side following a 5-0 cup final defeat. But not Bradford’s magnificent travelling army, who backed their side from start to finish in the most passionate of fans’ showings at Wembley.
The 35,000 who headed to the capital fully understood that City were already winners after becoming the first fourth-tier side to make it to a major domestic final at Wembley.
While Hanson was disappointed he and his team-mates could not give his hometown club something more to sing about on the day, the losing finalists medal he picked up will take pride of place at his home.
Hanson added: “We will all cherish these medals. For a fourth division side to get to the final is unbelievable.
“It probably won’t kick in until next season what we have achieved, maybe it will when we are sat at home watching the League Cup final next season.
“To think we were involved in a run to the final is a magnificent achievement.
“The boys did ever so well to get to the final and deserved this day.
“We are just a bit disappointed we couldn’t put on a bit more of a show after the fans turned up in such numbers.
“Unfortunately, the goal just after half-time killed the game and it was downhill after there.”
Hanson, heralded with the song ‘He used to work in the Co-op’ in the semi-final second leg at Villa, was not short of support at Wembley, with a fair few family and friends heading down to London, while a number at his former club of Guiseley cheered him on in the clubhouse at Nethermoor as they watched the action unfold.
While it may have been very much Swansea’s day, Hanson is already eyeing a return to Wembley, in the League Two play-off final in May, with City’s mission now being to start getting their act together in the league as they seek to propel themselves into the play-off positions in the league as the business end of the campaign approaches.
He added: “I had a good thirty or forty people here as well as probably half of Bradford who I knew as well. It’s a shame we couldn’t put a performance on for them, but I also had a lot of texts from fans after the game telling me to keep my head up and reminding me of how well we did to get here.
“The fans were just unbelievable, they have been throughout the cup run really.
“We hardly had a shot, but they were still singing and they gave a big cheer at the end when we had a shot.
“They have been magnificent and hopefully we can get them a promotion to seal what would be a very good season.
“We quickly get back to the league now and that’s where our bread and butter is and I am sure we would get another turn-out like that if we got to Wembley again.
“I wouldn’t say it will be difficult to pick ourselves up, despite what happened here. We enjoyed playing in the final, despite the result and we will now focus on Wednesday, which is a massive game against Dagenham and Redbridge. A few results went for us at the weekend and we have got to cash in.”