By Richard Johnston
I’ve always taken a particular interest in Bradford City’s early history and especially the cup-winning team of 1911. Part of it stems from my general interest in history combined with my dedication to all things claret and amber. It also stems from my family links to the team at the time.
A great, great uncle played for City for a short time in the club’s formative years, a chap called James Logan, one of the many Scots to play for the side in that period. His brother followed him on the journey south from Edinburgh St Bernard’s and would go on to be one of City’s greatest ever players – my great grandfather Peter Logan’s City career spanned 17 years and 304 appearances (43 goals) and he was one of the 11 men to lift the FA Cup in claret and amber.
I’m extremely proud that my great grandfather is one of the exclusive group that have played in a cup final for City. It was with great interest that I attended the 2011 exhibition at the Industrial Museum celebrating the centenary of the great cup win – it provided me with my first ever glimpse of Peter Logan’s FA Cup winner’s medal, displayed alongside others belonging to City’s greatest team, celebrating our greatest achievement.
This afternoon, 102 years after City won t’cup, Bradford City will again step onto the field of play in a major cup final. As the City squad take to the field at Wembley Stadium they will join that small band who have had the privilege of representing our club in a cup final.
I have often wondered how it felt to be part of the glorious 1911 cup run and victory. The limited film footage, newspaper accounts and black & white photographs can only tell us part of the tale. David Pendleton’s excellent book ‘Glorious 1911’ does a great job of filling in the gaps, but the full story can only be told by those who were there.
How did Logan react when he scored City’s winner against Norwich in the 2nd round? How loud was the roar when the final whistle was blown in the semi-final versus Blackburn? What was it like to board those cup final special trains accompanied by thousands of fans drenched in claret and amber? What were the scenes when Jimmy Speirs’ header nestled in the Newcastle goal? What was it like to be part of the parade when our victorious players returned to Bradford as heroes?
Now, in an incredible turn of events, our generation knows how it feels to reach a cup final. We know how it felt when Hanson hit that pearler in extra time at Notts County. The celebrations when Thompson blasted home in injury time at Watford. The delight of Nahki’s late equaliser versus Burton and Darby’s long-ranger. The mixture of shock and joy when Vermaelen’s penalty smashed against the post for the famous victory over Arsenal. Disbelief when McArdle and McHugh headed home in front of a heaving Kop in the semi-final. The almost unbearable tension of Villa Park, punctuated only by the release of Hanson’s goal and bedlam at the final whistle.
We will experience the journey to the final, the anticipation of the day ahead. The walk down Wembley Way, surrounded by fellow fans in our famous claret and amber. The roar as the players take to the field. And hopefully the celebrations of a goal or, if we dare to dream, the lifting of the cup itself.
Our 2012/13 cup run has given us a remarkable experience of a journey to a cup final, one we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams. In those many moments when my mind turns to the cup, I keep coming back to the parallels with 1911. The remarkable nature of the cup runs – one achieved by a club that had only played the game for eight years, one achieved by a fourth-tier outfit against the might and riches of the Premier League – both against all odds and logic.
The clamour for tickets – fans locked out against Burnley and in the Old Trafford replay; modern day sellouts against Wigan, Arsenal and away to Villa and the unbelievable demand for Wembley tickets. The publicity of the 1911 triumph, the cup win making headlines all over Europe and the victorious European tour; and now, worldwide headlines from Japan to the US, cup final songs and that quite brilliant Spanish commentary: “Jones, El Capitan…”.
Lastly the players. Two sets of remarkable players, separated by over a century. The Edwardian footballers who lived in the same Bradford streets as the fans. Those heroes that fought and died alongside their fellow man in the trenches of the Great War. My great grandfather, who retired after his 17-year City career (extended by a spell on the coaching staff) to be a publican near Toller Lane. Ordinary folk, part of something extraordinary.
Compare this with the current City squad, not Premier League millionaires but grafters at the sharp end of the professional game. James Hanson, only a few years removed from a part time job at the Co-op. Carl McHugh, only months ago with the potential to be another young lad on the footballing scrapheap, released by a Premier League Club. Matt Duke, so recently defeating cancer and now keeping out the might of the Premier League. And of course Gary Jones, a real workhorse who’s spent the majority of his career in the lower leagues. A man who, in the emotion of the biggest moment of his career gave what would be most footballers’ prized possession – their shirt from the night – to a young lad recovering from serious illness.
Real people, ordinary folks, part of this extraordinary journey along with all of us.
Now our generation of cup finalists have their chance to be among the City greats – Mellors, Speirs, Torrance, O’Rourke and Logan. Why not Jones, Hanson, Wells, McArdle and Duke? Perhaps it will be their names that stand out from the next century of City’s history, their medals on display, memories of their glory etched in the minds of City fans and passed from father to son.
Indeed, perhaps it will be their descendants who one day say with pride that they are descended from one of the few with the honour of playing for City in a cup final.
Enjoy this incredible cup final. Soak in the Wembley preparations. Smile through those nerves when walking down Wembley Way, and get behind the lads for every moment of the game. These moments will be fleeting, over all too quickly and consigned to history books, YouTube clips and our memories. This may not happen to Bradford City for another generation or more.
We are living history right now and we should embrace every moment of this amazing journey.
Cup Final: Width of a Post build-up
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