Prospect of Yorkshire derbies and a fear of failure drive Bradford City's Rory McArdle

RORY McARDLE is eyeing plenty of Yorkshire derbies in next season's Championship if Bradford City can clinch promotion this week '“ though he hopes to be able to leave Sheffield Wednesday off that list.

Heads you win: Rory McArdle, right, Bradfords match-winner against Fleetwood, has won at Wembley with Bradford before. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Heads you win: Rory McArdle, right, Bradfords match-winner against Fleetwood, has won at Wembley with Bradford before. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

The 30-year-old’s headed goal towards the end of the play-off semi-finals first leg against Fleetwood Town was enough to send the Bantams back to Wembley.

Saturday’s League One play-off final with Millwall will be McArdle’s third trip to the national stadium with Bradford and the fourth of his career.

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Victory over the Lions would not only bring a return to the second tier after 13 years away for City, but also a host of mouth-watering all-White Rose fixtures against Leeds United, Sheffield United, Barnsley, Hull City and Middlesbrough.

Bradford's Nathaniel Knight-Percival (left) and Rory McArdle celebrate after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League One playoff semi-final, second leg

Huddersfield Town or McArdle’s boyhood favourites Wednesday could also be in next season’s second tier, depending on who prevails tomorrow night at Hillsborough and then again at Wembley on May 29.

“There will be some big derbies next season in the Championship,” said McArdle.

“A couple of Yorkshire clubs are in the play-offs so we might lose them, hopefully one in particular from Sheffield.

“But Barnsley, Leeds, Sheffield United will all be in there. I always follow how the Yorkshire clubs are doing and it would be brilliant to have so many in the same division.

Bradford's Nathaniel Knight-Percival (left) and Rory McArdle celebrate after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League One playoff semi-final, second leg

“There would be some huge attendances and that would be great for football in Yorkshire.”

For City to be part of what will be a passable impression of a Championship (North) division in 2017-18, Millwall have to be dispatched.

It will not be easy, as was underlined a year ago when the Lions beat Bradford in the semi-finals to earn a Wembley showdown with Barnsley.

Paul Heckingbottom’s Reds prevailed, but there is a school of thought that suggests the London clubwill be stronger for that experience. McArdle, however, also has plenty of Wembley knowhow to fall back on after twice visiting with City in 2013 – five years after scoring for Rochdale in a League Two play-off final defeat to Stockport County. “The play-offs are different,” said the Sheffield-born defender. “I will never forget losing there (with Rochdale), it is still like yesterday to me.

“I was sitting on the pitch and looked up to see the opposition celebrating. It was horrible. We had trained all year and worked so hard, especially in the semi-finals to reach Wembley. But it all counted for nothing.

“I was thinking, ‘We have been through so much and for what?’. I am sure a couple of the lads have been in the same place. Those who haven’t, I might have a little chat with as I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.

“It is something that is always in the back of the mind. The flipside of that is Northampton (in 2013). That was over after half an hour, we were 3-0 up and everything was a bit surreal.

“I remember sitting down at half-time and thinking, ‘What can the gaffer say here? We have done it’. But, at the same time, I knew we had to guard against complacency. If we had got sloppy, there could have been a way back for them.

“The scenes afterwards were brilliant and the feelings night and day compared to that final we lost. It made everything worthwhile and we were all on a massive high that we took into the following season.”

McArdle scored in both those play-off finals and he has promised to re-enact the ‘tongue out’ celebration that caused a minor Twitter sensation after the header that beat Fleetwood.

Under the tagline #DotheRory, City fans aped his now familiar celebration. “My missus said something about the celebration,” he adds with a smile. “I went viral. I don’t think I had ever been viral before.

“It is a good bit of fun. People are enjoying it. And, don’t worry, the tongue will be out if I score again at Wembley.”