Bradford 1 Torquay 0: Connell’s setting sights on beloved Arsenal

AS a youngster, Arsenal-mad Alan Connell was so intent on flying the flag for the North London club that he would attend training sessions with Tottenham Hotspur sporting his precious Gunners shirt.

That unstinting support has endured with the Bradford City striker having even managed to squeeze in attendance at a couple of Arsenal away games this season.

Come tomorrow night, however, the 29-year-old is determined to pile on the misery for Arsene Wenger’s men when they come to Valley Parade as the Bantams make a first appearance in the League Cup quarter-final for almost a quarter of a century.

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Fresh from scoring City’s winner against Torquay United on Saturday just four minutes after coming off the bench, Connell said: “I am a big Arsenal supporter so I am really looking forward to the game.

“I still go to games and have been to a couple this season, the away ones at Manchester City and Liverpool because they were up here.

“They are always the first result I look for. My family are all Arsenal with my mum and dad being born and bred in Islington. They are my team and always will be. But I want to beat them.

“I have never played against 
Arsenal before. I watched the draw at home and we were the last two teams out. I quite fancied the Emirates but now it is up here I am really looking forward to our fans getting right behind us.

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“Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for quite some time and that is frustrating as a fan. But that won’t be in my mind on Tuesday night. I am purely Bradford and want us to go through, then after the game I can go back to being an Arsenal supporter.

“Would I celebrate the winner against Arsenal if I scored it? I’d like to think I would. I am desperate to win the game for Bradford and am proud to be at such a great club.”

Unusually for a youngster so devoted to Arsenal, Connell spent six years with Tottenham’s youth set-up. Despite that, he never missed an opportunity to underline just where his loyalties lay.

He added: “I used to wear my Arsenal kit to training all the time, which, as I am sure you can imagine, didn’t go down too well.

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“There were a couple of others who did it so eventually Tottenham forced us to wear their kit.

“One of my fondest memories is, funnily enough, when Spurs once lost 5-1 to Arsenal in a youth game at Under-12s. But I got the one.”

With 23,500 tickets already sold, Valley Parade is set to host its biggest attendance since February, 1960, when 26,244 watched then Third Division Bradford hold soon-to-be-crowned League champions Burnley to a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup fifth round.

Wenger indicated over the weekend his intention to again rotate his squad in the Capital One Cup with Bacary Sagna due to be left behind in London along with a few other first-team players.

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Asked what sort of Arsenal side he expected to be fielded tomorrow night, Connell replied: “I would have thought the players who were on the bench against West Brom (in Saturday’s 2-0 win) will come in. Lads like Tomas Rosicky, who is coming back from injury, and maybe Vito Mannone and Carl Jenkinson.

“Whoever they play, Arsenal will have players of immense quality and we will give them the respect they deserve. But we also have to believe in ourselves.”

The manner of the win over Torquay will certainly have boosted those belief levels with Bradford showing tremendous patience to claim victory against a team who played the final 55 minutes with just 10 after Brian Saah was sent off for an elbow to the head of James Meredith.

Connell, who had watched from the bench as both James Hanson and Nahki Wells hit the woodwork with the score at 0-0, broke the deadlock with just five minutes remaining.

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The finish was one worthy of winning any game, the substitute collecting the ball on the edge of the area before showing great composure to curl an unstoppable shot past Michael Poke in the Gulls’ goal.

It was no more than City deserved after pinning the visitors back for long periods and ensured a happy ending to a difficult 24 hours that had begun with the club being expelled from the 
FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player – Newcastle loanee Curtis Good – against Brentford in the second round.

An appeal has been lodged and the club’s submissions will be made today with the FA now promising a verdict before the end of this week.

Manager Phil Parkinson, whose side have been drawn at Crewe in the Northern Area semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, said: “I want our supporters to know it was a very minor administrative error. We will see what happens next. If we win the appeal, bring it on. And if we don’t then we take it on the chin.”

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Bradford City: Duke; Darby, McArdle, McHugh (Connell 81), Meredith; Thompson (Turgott 62), G Jones, Doyle, Atkinson; Wells (Naylor 88), Hanson. Unused substitutes: McLaughlin, Ravenhill, R Jones, Forsyth.

Torquay United: Poke; Leadbitter, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Bodin (Thompson 27), Easton, Craig, Stevens (MacDonald 37); Howe, Jarvis (Lathrope 75). Unused substitutes: Rice, Halpin, Cruise, Yeoman.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).