WITH so many Hull City old boys in the Bradford camp that this week created history, perhaps it is no surprise that the League Two club’s heroics in reaching a major Wembley final should have been followed so closely in the East Riding.
Matt Duke, one of many heroes on the night as the Bantams edged out Aston Villa, is perhaps the most notable link between the two Yorkshire clubs after a seven-year spell at the KC Stadium that included 21 appearances in the Premier League.
But joining the 35-year-old goalkeeper in the starting XI on Tuesday night was one-time Tigers duo Nathan Doyle and Will Atkinson, while in the dugout Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin – once manager and first-team coach, respectively, at Hull – were masterminding one of football’s biggest upsets.
No wonder, therefore, that Bradford’s run to the Capital One Cup final has been of particular interest at the eastern end of the M62 with Tigers defender Liam Rosenior admitting that the exploits of his former team-mates are serving as an inspiration.
“I was at a supporters’ club function in Hornsea on Tuesday night,” explains the 28-year-old to the Yorkshire Post ahead of Hull today taking on Barnsley in the FA Cup fourth round.
“But I listened to the Bradford game on the drive home and heard them score the goal. When I got in, I found my wife watching ‘Glee’ or something else rubbish.
“She was fuming when I asked her to turn it over but I had to watch what Bradford were doing. I was so happy for Dukey and Will.
“That night was what football is all about. Six thousand people from Bradford heading to Villa dreaming of Wembley against all the odds.
“And, as for Dukey, what a guy. After what he has been through (in beating cancer), too. I bet he never dreamed when he joined Bradford that he would one day be playing in a Cup final.
“Good luck to him and Will, who was a lovely lad and someone who worked hard when he was here. It shows what can happen. I doubt anyone seriously thought when Bradford won in the early rounds of the League Cup that this would happen.
“But it has and every other team should use that as an inspiration. If Bradford can get to Wembley, why can’t we? In this country, we love an underdog and it would be great if we could go on our own run in the FA Cup.”
If Hull are to emulate the Bantams and go on a headline-grabbing run to the latter stages of the world’s oldest knockout competition, they will have to, first, account for Barnsley.
After requiring a replay to edge past Leyton Orient in the third round, City are determined to book a place in the last 16 at the first opportunity today. If they can see off the Reds, it will mean a place in the fifth round for only the second time in almost a quarter-of-a-century.
For Rosenior, who grew up watching his dad Leroy playing in the Cup, a long run in the competition would be long overdue.
He said: “Before Leyton Orient, I hadn’t played an FA Cup game for five years. I only realised that the other day. I was always the one being rested.
“There was one season at Reading when we had a Cup game and I was in Dubai. The club had told me to have the weekend off and go get some sun because I had played in every league game.
“This season is a bit of a change in that I haven’t started too much in the league and that has meant playing in the Cups.”
The Cup has undeniably lost much of its lustre in recent years, as has been evident by not only attendances but also the number of teams sending out what is effectively a second-string team.
Hull were one of those in the last round, the team that came within seconds of crashing out at home to Orient before being rescued with a last-gasp goal from Nick Proschwitz showing nine changes from the XI which drew 0-0 with Blackpool on New Year’s Day.
A packed schedule over the festive period was a factor with Steve Bruce making far fewer changes for the replay at Brisbane Road, which was won in extra-time by a late goal from Tom Cairney.
The Cup’s decline is something that saddens Rosenior, who fondly recalls just what the competition meant in his youth.
“The biggest memory I have is of my dad getting to the semi-finals with West Ham (in 1991),” recalls the City defender. “They lost 4-1 to Nottingham Forest and I was about five years old.
“I cried my eyes out afterwards because my dad had promised I could go to Wembley to watch him.
“When you are a kid and watching things like that or Ryan Giggs’s goal when he ran from the halfway line, you love the FA Cup. It inspired me to want to be a footballer.
“It is a shame what has happened since then. The reason the Cup has lost a bit of what it had is money, simple as that. Other things haven’t helped, such as when they started moving the date of the final around.
“Playing the final before the season has even ended would never have happened, say, 20 years ago. But while that hasn’t helped, the main thing is money.
“When my dad was playing in the old First Division, his club, West Ham, were not getting £60-90m just to stay up. That is what clubs get now in the Premier League.
“If they had, I am sure things would have been different. Owners now have to see as their priority earning that £60-90m a season, rather than winning the Cup and getting £600,000.
“It is business sense to play your best team in the Premier League, which is a shame because all fans love the romance of the FA Cup.
“The Sky deal has been great for me and other footballers as it means I get paid well. I can’t complain. But, at the same time, the financial demands on the game mean the Cup just isn’t as important to a club as it once was. I don’t think that will change.”
That aside, Rosenior is in no doubt as to how highly a Cup run would be prized at the KC. “Bradford have shown the way. Who knows where Nick’s stoppage time equaliser against Leyton Orient and then Tom’s winner late on down there may lead?”