Aston Villa vs Bradford City build up: Can we do this?

2012-12-11 22.26.41

By Jason McKeown

Phil Parkinson spoke for many of us when he declared, ahead of the first leg of Bradford City’s League Cup semi final against Aston Villa, that he would take a draw.

City’s presence in the last four of a major cup competition was something to relish every second of, but there was always a danger than a comfortable Villa win at Valley Parade would render the second leg something of a dead rubber. Get a draw in the first leg at least, and we could go to Villa Park still in the game. Even if we knew it was odds on that we would not get our fairy tale ending.

But instead, in the first leg we got so much more. And now it all feels rather serious.

Dare to dream is the phrase of choice. It is a great sentiment, but in some ways daring to dream is a low risk past time. All my life I have watched major cup finals at Wembley on TV, wishing that one day we’d be actually there to see Bradford City. For many, many years I have dreamed of us approaching an occasion like Tuesday’s semi final second leg, the eyes of a nation upon us and wishing us well. But now, after winning 3-1 on a barmy night at Valley Parade, it’s not about daring to dream. It’s whether we dare to believe.

Can we pull this off? Pretty much every City fan I have spoken to for the past two weeks – from the ultra optimistic to the glass half empty – has said pretty much the same thing: no. Villa will do what a Premier League team should always do when playing a League Two side at home: bulldozer us. Tuesday could prove to be many things, but one guarantee is that it will be a long night. Plenty of time to overturn a two-goal deficit. Plenty of time to watch our dream die.

And yet, I do think we can do it. Because here’s the thing that offers me hope. Imagine if the second leg lives up to our worst fears, and we are 3-0 down at half time? They have overpowered us and look irresistible. A packed out Villa Park is rocking. S**t.

But yet…we would still only need to score once in the second half to force extra time (and penalties!). That doesn’t quite seem so daunting. Get two goals and we’d go through. Even if we went 4-0 down, we’d be 5-3 behind on aggregate and still have an outside chance.

The point I’m getting is that we go into the second leg with a rather large margin for error. We don’t have to win the second leg to go through. We can lose 1-0 and be looking forward to Wembley. A Villa backlash might be something to fear, but they are going to have to play really well to make it to Wembley at our expense. That should give us hope. Because even if things start going wrong on the night, there will be no reason to panic.

How do we approach the match? Park the bus, or have a go? Parkinson spoke immediately after the first leg of taking the latter approach. He will look to play the front two who has served him so well, James Hanson and Nahki Wells, instead of leaving one on the bench. It will not be about flooding midfield in an attempt to stifle the game, or time wasting from the first minute. In a sensible and controlled manner, we are going to give Villa something to worry about too.

And why not? Their defence looks shocking, and will doubtlessly concede opportunities. Whereas their attack, for all the dismal finishing of Christian Benteke and Darren Bent at Valley Parade, is capable of cutting us open at will. Sit back and defend, and Villa will doubtless make the most of the initiative that we would hand to them. And our defence is not good enough to hold out in this way, especially to a side of such comparative quality.

So expect us to go with a gameplan that is more subtle then 10 men behind the ball. Expect to see us create chances, and the key to the second leg may be strikingly similar to the first – whichever team takes, rather than misses, their chances, will probably be celebrating come the end of the evening.

In many ways, enjoyment is going to be harder to experience. I’m really excited about being part of a 6,500 away following – easily the biggest I have ever known – and it will be a special evening no matter what. But, writing this four days before the game, I am already riddled with nerves about the match. I know some City fans who couldn’t sleep before the first leg, and I think there will be many more of us struggling with insomnia over the next few days.

Can we do it? Yes. We have a magnificent opportunity of reaching only the second major cup final in our entire history. We are achingly close to playing at Wembley for only the second time in our entire history. We are making, and right at the centre of, history. An evening we will remember for as long as we live. No matter what.

I can’t wait, and yet I’m dreading it on some levels too. Everything is on the line at Villa Park. The ending of the dream would be incredibly difficult to take, because of coming so close to realising it. The possible explosion of joy that we could be about to experience, should it go our way, sends tingles down your spine even now. It would be a level of joy that would probably top anything we have ever experienced in our lives.

Dare to believe? We do. And that is both utterly, utterly fantastic and utterly, utterly scary.



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7 replies

  1. Excellent article Jason. It send shivers up my spine just reading it – goodness knows what Tuesday night is going to do to me.

  2. Great article as usual Jason – some really good points and has started to raise the excitation levels on a cold day!!! This is where WOAP really comes into its own!

    Will be fantastic over the next few days awaiting the trip down to Villa Park.

  3. Against Watford, Wigan and Arsenal and in the first leg against Villa, we had nothing to lose. No-one expected us to win, so we gave it our best shot and crossed our fingers.

    Now, for the first time, we really have got something to lose and I’m seriously glad I’m not the one calling it!

  4. What an evening in prospect, Ive got butterflies already. We go there fresh and ready thats for sure. One more hurdle to negotiate and I think we can do it. The pressure is on them and how they handle that will go along way to determining the outcome. We score we go through, thats how I see it. Either way we should all be so proud of the team, what a cup run.

    • That’s a great article that builds the tension and the expectation for Tuesday. City’s website says that all 6,500 tickets have been sold so what a game this is going to be and what a contribution City’s travelling fans can make to the eventual outcome. I hope no one stops shouting from beginning to end.

      I wonder if Villa’s result today will help us and maybe they lost their nerve again, throwing away a two goal advantage and having to settle for the draw. From the various reports I’ve read so far it seems as if Villa were really hanging on for the last 20 minutes and although they had a couple of chances towards the end it sounds as if it was West Brom creating the main opportunities to add to their score and win the game. I’m looking forward to the analysis on MoTD and I’m sure there’ll be a mention about how Villa will cope with us.

      It’s interesting that during the game all three Villa substitutions appear to have been, more or less, like for like but in each of the three substitutions the manager replaced a younger player with an older player. Perhaps Lambert decided to bring on the more experienced players to weather the West Brom storm knowing that to take his youngsters off would reduce the risks of panic. By introducing more experienced players who’d been watching the pattern of play Lambert could expect them to take the pace out of the game and better cope with West Brom’s attacks.

      The first tactical substitution, ignoring the first substitution which was caused by an injury, came within 4 minutes of the West Brom goal and the second substitution after a mere 15 minutes later – a 15 minute spell during which two of his players had been booked. Did Lambert detect that the on-field players were starting to lose confidence and drop their heads?

      From the reports, the downside about Villa’s performance from our point of view seems to be the return of their captain, Vlaar, and his influence on the defence. We know Villa can score goals but we’ve got to hope that they’ll continue to leak goals too. I don’t think City should plan to stonewall for 90 minutes and I’d rather see us attacking at every opportunity and trying hard to score.

      I’ll take every goal we can have but I really would like us to score the second goal on Tuesday. Looking at Villa’s recent performances I think the vital goal on Tuesday will be the second one. If Villa score first and then City equalise they’ll have the jitters. If Villa score two then it’ll be us with the jitters. It would be nice to rock Villa by us getting the first goal but if they then score they may begin to believe in themselves. Of course if the second goal is our second one on the night then the tie will be over.

      Putting aside that amazing result (is that possible!) the other thing that really surprised me about the first leg was the performance of Lambert. His behaviour on the touch line showed a man under significant pressure and a manager who was running out of ideas. At the start of the match Lambert was on his feet, shouting at his players, pointing here and there and giving them advice. When the goal went in he sat down and didn’t seem to even talk to his assistant sitting next to him. It was a similar situation for the second half.

      What a game this is going to be and I hope every City fan has lost his/her voice by the end of the game. Noise will be important on Tuesday and could make the Villa youngsters worried.

  5. I think Delph was taken off because he was slightly limping, probably as a precaution for Tuesday. Nzogbia also took a pretty fierce whack in the first half so that may also have been precautionary.
    I may be wrong but I could have sworn that one of the Villa players got a fifth booking, so should be suspended for Tuesday.

  6. Excellent preview Jason. The nerves are kicking in as i type this, it’ll be interesting to see what team Phil puts on the Villa Park pitch. Personally i’d start with Duke, Derby, McArdle, McHugh, Good, Atkinson, Doyle, GaryJones, Thompson, Wells, Hanson. Obviously keeping it tight but also having an attacking edge with this formation. To get a result everyone of the players involved are going to have to give everything…they must GIVE everything…in other words they must not ‘die wondering’ ‘if only’…’if only’ i’d have run a little harder..’if only’ i’d have put in a last ditch tackle…every ounce of effort must be left on the Villa Park pitch…if that happens BCFC could make history…they could be playing their first major domestic cup final since 1911. Now to the fans that make the trip to Villa Park, they must also give everything to the cause…what ever the final score on Tuesday night is our team deserves nothing less than every decibel of vocal support we can muster. There is alot of talk of BCFC fans being cowed into silence by a rocking Villa Park crowd…well in all my years of supporting Bradford City Football Club i can never remember that happening…it didn’t happen at Elland Road in 1990 when LUFC gave BCFC only 1200 tickets in a crowd of well over 35,000…it didn’t happen at The Den in 1983 when Millwall were flying high with Sheringham and Cascarino scorring for fun and i can’t see in happening on Tuesday night either. BCFC fans must sing til their combined throats hurt then sing even louder…if that happens BCFC could be playing their first major domestic cup final at Wembley EVER. Yes it could all end in glorious failure…but if everybody gives everything it could also end in a historic result for the club, that will be talked about by future generations of Bradford City Football Club supporters. BRING IT ON !!!!!!

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