By Mahesh Johal
“Supporting Bradford City has never been easy, but on days like this it is impossible to imagine ever wanting to do anything but”. One of the unfortunate ones not to get a ticket for this second leg, I am here to describe how hard it was to support Bradford City on television.
A Manchester-based Bantam, there was no chance of queuing for a ticket. Hayfever stricken, I found it hard to sleep on Friday. My allergy to pollen was a reason, the pressure of playing cricket on the Saturday another, but fundamentally I couldn’t sleep because of my jealousy of the people queuing at Valley Parade to get their golden tickets. I stayed up till 2.30am and read with pride the tweets about the #bcafcqueue.
I tried endlessly to obtain a ticket, but as I arrived to Leeds train station on Saturday night I was resigned to the fact that I would be watching this game from my house. Whilst my surroundings were familiar, there’s something special about watching your team away from home. As a collective group, you are one! You sing as one, you cheer as one, you cry as one! Regardless of the result, you have the common goal…supporting your team!
I watched the first half alone. It was tough. To hear the ferocious support of City’s following only made me want to be there more. In a weird way, I was supporting my team but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t contributing to their performance. My roars and claps couldn’t be heard. I’d like to think that Gary Jones has fed off my enthusiastic fist pumps every time he takes a corner. But yesterday was different. Whilst I tried, nothing I did could help my team. Instead the responsibility lay with the 1,600 or so at Burton.
Nahki Wells goal brought pandemonium in the East Terrace, but it also created wild scenes in Rawdon. On the phone to a loved one, my reputation of a calm and collected individual was shattered. I screamed with delight, but instead of finding the nearest person to hug I jumped around by myself. It was only until the third replay of the goal that I realised that I was still on the phone. I felt slightly embarrassed that someone had heard my emotional outpouring; however, when you’re in the ground you don’t feel conscious about these things. The emotion grabs hold of you and you react naturally. Wells’ goal saw an outpouring of relief, belief and hope.
Fandom is an amazing thing. There must be theories to explain it and one that comes to mind is Benedict Anderson’s ‘Imagined Communities’. We don’t know each other but we all have something in common and this in turn interconnects all in an ‘imagined community’. However we are more than a community. The club’s history, and this season makes our connection different. I can’t put my finger on it, but whatever it is, you could see it in the celebrations after Wells’ goal.
The arrival of my cousin made the second half even more tense. There was surely nervous tension in the air at the Pirelli, but again you were going through the torture with thousands of City fans. The natural reaction to tension is to release it. For example, you chant as loud as you can. At my house, the tension stayed inside me. I tried to shout, but the words didn’t come out.
James Hanson’s goal brought unbridled joy again, but it was the quality of the strike that was most emphasised by the television cameras. From the moment the ball dropped to Hanson I just knew he would score. The way the ball sat up, the position of his body, the laser accuracy. Seeing the goal unfold and the reaction of the crowd was something truly special.
Two nil up and Wembley in sight; did anyone really think it was going to be that easy? Hero on Thursday, Garry Thompson became the villain after giving away the penalty. He didn’t mean it. In fairness he was tracking back to win the ball and his over eagerness got the better of him. I immediately thought penalty, and the class Jacques Maghoma clinically fired home. The tension was at fever pitch inside me!
‘Supporting Bradford City has never been easy, but on days like this it is impossible to imagine ever wanting to do anything but’.
Nakhi’s winner was one of those moments that made the years of pain all worth it. The goal was reminiscent to the one he scored against Chesterfield. Hanson flick on and, with his back to goal, Wells scored. If less emphatic, this one was more important. I love watching crowds celebrating, and seeing the ‘is it in/did he save it’ reaction was brilliant. Even better was Wells reaction to the crowd. If this is his last season, what a talisman he’s been and what moments he has given us.
Those in the ground may differ in opinion, but on Sky the final half an hour was tense but easier than games I have seen before. We looked in control and solid. Billy Kee had his chances, but I was in the North Stand that night we beat Aston Villa and I had the same confident feeling that we would progress.
The frontmen rightly get the plaudits. I said in my first article for this website that these two play off each other and their performance yesterday were sublime. You notice it live at games, but watching the television coverage helps you appreciate their partnership more.
Individuals deserve praise but this was a CLUB performance. That’s everyone down from the chairmen, the management, the team, the ticket office employees, the stewards there on that cold Friday night and last, but definitely not least, the fans!
The images of Phil Parkinson at full time showed how much he wanted this. He epitomised how much we wanted this! Supporting Bradford City has never been easy and, come May 18th, I know I will be in filled with nerves. But after this season who would bet against us completing the impossible…
Categories: The 2012/13 play offs