Huddersfield Town v Bradford City: Captain Jones delighted to be back on Wembley trail

FOR all the plaudits and praise that came Bradford City’s way en route to the Capital One Cup final, Gary Jones admits it was not until he was relaxing on holiday that he truly appreciated the magnitude of what had been achieved.

Gary Jones

The veteran midfielder was a key member of the side that stunned Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic to become the first team from the basement division to reach a major Wembley final.

His reward came in many forms, ranging from the personal accolades that included being named City’s ‘Player of the Year’ and in the League Two team of the year to the unusual sensation of having a 50-foot high image of himself adorning the outside of the national stadium.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

When joining Bradford last summer from Rochdale, Jones could never have anticipated just how well things would pan out in 2012-13 with a return trip to Wembley in May also seeing promotion clinched on a never-to-be-forgotten afternoon.

“The entire season was incredible and so many things stand out,” admits the 36-year-old to the Yorkshire Post ahead of tonight’s return to Capital One Cup action.

“But, of course, in terms of once-in-a-lifetime stuff then the run to the League Cup final was something that I definitely can’t see ever happening again. League Two teams just don’t go on a run like that.”

Asked about seeing his huge photo outside Wembley ahead of the defeat to Swansea City, Jones replied: “That was quite surreal, as was walking down the tunnel and seeing pictures of the lads splattered all over the wall.

“The good thing, though, is we deserved it for how we played all the way through that run. All the media attention and the praise, I think we deserved that because of how we played.

“People talk to me about it all the time, even on holiday in the summer. We met a couple from Peterborough who go and watch them all the time.

“Both said they had enjoyed our run massively and that brought home to me just how much the nation had enjoyed Bradford City’s run. They were gripped by it.

“This couple had no previous affiliation with Bradford but they had been gripped by how we got on and followed all our games on television. Amazing, really.”

Tonight will be City’s second visit to Huddersfield inside two years but much has changed since Phil Parkinson’s side triumphed on penalties in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second round.

For a start, both clubs are now a division higher than was the case when Nialle Rodney netted the decisive spot-kick to send City through after the tie had finished level at 2-2.

Only Luke Oliver from the City starting XI is still at Valley Parade, while all but Jack Hunt, Peter Clarke, Danny Ward and Oscar Gobern from the Town ranks that night have moved on along with then manager Lee Clark.

Oliver, who has been out for nine months through injury, may feature tonight as Parkinson is without both Andrew Davies and Rory McArdle as City look to kick-start another glorious run.

Captain Jones said: “We have to approach the League Cup the same as we did last year. By going into every game wanting to win. That can’t change. We want to build some momentum in these early weeks.

“I don’t see the Huddersfield game being any different. We went to Watford at a similar time last year, rested a few but still managed to win the game.

“Whatever team we pick, it will still be strong. We go there to win because if you can get through a couple of rounds, momentum builds quickly in this competition.

“Stepping onto the pitch believing you are going to win is always a good thing. And a good result at Huddersfield would definitely help us in that respect, especially after coming away from Bristol City with a draw on Saturday.”

City will be backed by around 3,800 fans tonight after selling their allocation for a fixture that has not been played at league level since the 2006-07 campaign.

Jones added: “The fans never cease to amaze me. We took 5,500 to Wigan, the same to Villa. And it sounds like we’ll have a full stand behind us at Huddersfield.

“I know those fans enjoyed last season’s run. For Bradford City, it probably closed the door on what had been a tough spell for the club. We had been in League Two for quite some time but, suddenly, the club was back on the map.

“We just kept beating all these high-profile teams and that put us more and more into the spotlight. People were talking about Bradford for all the right reasons and that was great.

“I am sure the fans are like me and have their own personal highlights. Mine was James Hanson scoring at Villa (in the semi-final second leg). Once that ball went in the net, I really thought we would get to the final.

“The celebrations afterwards were quite incredible and something I’ll never forget.”

Last six games: Huddersfield Town DWLWWD, Bradford City WDLWWD.

Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire).

Last time: Huddersfield Town 2 Bradford City 2; October 4, 2011; Football League Trophy