By Rob Craven
Come 4:00pm on Sunday the City of Bradford will come together; the public, the fans, the manager and coaches, the directors, medical staff and players. We will all be gunning for the same result, giving everything to the cause as one, whether it be from the dug outs, from the stands, from our living rooms or pubs or within the rectangular whitewashed box.
But prior to us entering the national stadium, as fans, what can we do?
We cannot train for a match like the players can, or contribute to the tactics or pre match team talk. We cannot coach the players to have the same love and passion that we have for our club, we have to trust that they can use their playing experience and expertise added to their fitness and desire to win to get us the right result.
We fans are left on the sidelines looking in for any new scraps of information from websites and newspapers, building up a mass of emotion and endless thoughts. These thoughts lead us to the dreams of possible highs and nightmares of our worst fears, from which the unexplainable world of superstition is born.
Superstition in football is a funny thing. Talk to any fan closely connected with the club and they will be able to name you an item or action that has bizarrely and without any pre thought become the reason why Bradford City are entering their first cup final in over 100 years.
This might not be a physical item or action but a routine or thought process all in the aid of dealing with the emotion of a football match. As we aren’t able to put on our boots and kits and run out onto the pitch to make the result happen, we have to do the next best thing.
We make sure that we continue to do, whatever it was that we did before, in order not to disturb the current course of fate. On the morning of Sunday 24there will be a lot of people doing a lot of funny things both in the city of Bradford and all over the world as fans tune in to do their bit to help the Bantams get the right result.
I thought it was just me. I’m not going to disclose my superstition prior to the game on Sunday, for fear that if I do, then it will not work again as it did for the previous cup ties. But whilst I was stood outside The Shakespeare pub in Birmingham city centre prior to the 2nd leg of the semi-final, I witnessed one homeless person feel the rewards of a set of Bradford City fans superstitious minds, that made me realise, that we are all in this together, and deeper than I ever thought.
The group of fans were outside the pub discussing the impending game when a homeless person came over asking for change. I always feel slightly awkward in these situations, but these fellas lapped up the attention of the homeless man and adorned him with a handsome reward for his inquest.
As the homeless man trundled off into the snowy night a little heavier in the pocket, the City fans turned to me and told me that for all of the previous cup games they had attended, they had by chance happened upon homeless people, and donated to their various causes, and as a result of this good will, City had gone on to win the game.
This warmed my heart and at the same time filled me with amusement. They felt the exact same responsibility that I did for City being where they are, but also held the same fear that comes with responsibility that if you do not do your bit however bizarre or crazy, then you will let the side down.
As a youngster I had an old Bradford City mug that I used to drink out of every Saturday morning before attending a match. This mug was the reason why we were so successful in the 1996 and if you ever wondered how we managed to win that Wembley final in 1996, yes, it was because of my lucky mug.
Unable to deal with the impending guilt should Bradford not be triumphant this time round, two of my friends Andy and Steve will wear the exact same clothes to Wembley that they wore to the villa away game and the home game before that. The fact that they had mistakenly worn the exact same outfit as each other in the first leg makes this story all the more amusing. If you want to see Andy and Steve on Sunday, look out for two lads wearing matching green jumpers with dark blue jeans.
Similarly having watched the first leg of the semi final in the front room of Tom’s east London home, Jim and Tom were unable, out of fear, to do anything other than exactly the same routine that they had when they then watched the 2nd leg from Villa Park. Even sitting in the same seats on the same part of the couch they for the second time watched in disbelief as the Bantams made history. And as much as it was down to the players on the pitch, Jim and Tom had contributed to it too – at least in their own hearts and minds.
Now I’m not a religious person or particularly superstitious in any other walk of life, but talk to me about Bradford City at Wembley and I begin praying to Buddha, Brahman, Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Maheswara, Shiva, Allah and Jesus Christ our lord, Amen! I don’t actually think that any of these guys will be any more helpful to our cause than Pete from Idle wearing his shirt backwards and his socks inside out. But it certainly helps me to cope with all of this nervous energy.
That is what this is all about isn’t it? Football? This is the exact reason why football is just so good. It consumes our lives and gives us emotion where we wouldn’t normally have any. It fulfils our souls and lets us escape temporarily into a world outside of our own. It makes us do daft stuff.
This cup run has been no exception. Superstitions will be rife on Sunday morning as we struggle to cope with the emotion and to contemplate our miraculous journey to the league cup final. We are in dream world.
So for one last time, before fate takes control, drink from your lucky mug, don your oldest boxer shorts, wear your socks inside out and take that special route to work all week because this is as ginormous as it feels. We are Bradford City and we are going to Wembley – superstitious or not, that is bizarre!
Cup Final: Width of a Post build-up
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- The Swansea City perspective by Mark Scully