VALLEY PARADE’S notorious pitch may have given Sunderland manager Gus Poyet sleepless nights ahead of last month’s FA Cup fifth-round tie, but this week it was Gary Liddle’s turn to be left sweating over the state of the surface.
The Bantams midfielder is expected to return to the starting XI tomorrow against Reading after serving a two-game suspension for picking up 10 bookings.
Liddle came close to suffering FA Cup heartache just a few days ago when the League One clash against Crawley Town was put in doubt by the heavy state of Bradford’s surface.
Had the game been postponed – a pitch inspection was called at 4.30pm on the day of a game City won 1-0 – or abandoned in the snowy conditions then Liddle would have had to sit out the Cup clash with the Royals.
“I was very nervous all day on Tuesday,” said Liddle, who had started 19 consecutive games before incurring the ban.
“The furthest I have gone in the FA Cup is the fourth round so Reading was always going to be the biggest game I had been involved in.
“I had been lucky enough to play at Anfield for Notts County, but that was in the early stages of the Capital One Cup.
“So I couldn’t face the prospect of not being available. All Tuesday, I seemed to be constantly looking at the weather updates on my phone.
“It was a big relief when the pitch inspection was over and the game was going ahead.
“I was glad to see the game start and definitely glad to see it finish. I felt powerless as the snow came down.
“If I am honest, I didn’t see much of the game. Instead, I found myself constantly looking up towards the floodlights at the snow swirling round and fearing the worst. But, thankfully, it finished and we got a nice result on the back of it that set us up for a good week.”
Another City stalwart forced to sit out the midweek win over Crawley, a result that took Phil Parkinson’s men to within a point of the play-off places, was Andrew Davies.
The club captain, who had a slight strain, has become something of a cup talisman for the Bantams with the Yorkshire club not having lost any of the home ties against opposition from a higher division since his arrival a little over three years ago.
Davies, outstanding in the upsets over Chelsea and Sunderland, believes a factor in Bradford’s favour is the facilities in the dressing room area of Valley Parade, which is the only area of the stadium that pre-dates the mid-Nineties.
He said: “Big name players on big money come here, maybe look at the stadium and the pitch and it mentally breaks them.
“They think, ‘I don’t really want to be here’. Straight away, we have got an advantage.
“We know what it’s going to be like, we play to the conditions and probably run that little bit harder. Effort will always outdo talent, I have always said that.”
Davies, a former Premier League defender with Middlesbrough and Stoke City, added: “In football you have got to be mentally strong.
“You go to some horrible grounds. I am not disrespecting clubs but when I first came down from the Premier League to League Two, everyone said, ‘You are going to breeze this’. But I knew it wasn’t that easy.
“Sol Campbell had one game at Morecambe and he was gone. I knew I would have to be mentally strong. The people with that mental toughness are the ones best equipped to get over that bridge.
“When people come and think, ‘This isn’t very good’, straight away your mind is switched to a negative.”