The Chelsea Verdict part one: The finest day in Bradford City’s history

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Following Saturday’s sensational victory over Chelsea, Tim Roche joins regular WOAP pundits Gareth Walker and Nick Beanland to share their experience of being present at The Bridge for an epic afternoon for Bradford City.

All images by Mike Holdsworth.

What did you make of the Bradford City performance?

Gareth: It was a typical City performance. It sounds daft saying that, after beating Chelsea on their own patch, but it really was. We gave two poor goals away (which was the last thing that we wanted to do) and then came back like we do so often in the second half.

Obviously Chelsea looked a class above as individuals, but we really fought hard and once we equalised I thought that we looked to be the better side as their heads dropped. They began to look nervy and we forced them into mistakes. Having said all that, even in the first half Cech made a world class save from Andrew Davies and Jon Stead’s goal was a cracker.

It was arguably the biggest shock in history given their stature at the moment, the fact that they were 2-0 up and the fact that Drogba was refereeing the game for Andre Mariner.

Tim: Mesmerising. We looked fairly comfortable right from the off, and it was a case of ‘so far, so good’ up until Cahill flicking in the first. City’s heads didn’t drop, even at 2-0, and Stead’s thunderbolt was the least we deserved.

The second half was probably the best performance ever from a Bradford City side. We looked incredibly confident, and Chelsea were obviously rattled by our approach. To a man, the City team were outstanding.

Nick: I’ve now allowed 48 hours to pass, bought and pored over several semi-reputable newspapers, watched Saturday’s MOTD several times, and it would appear that what I thought I witnessed really did happen. The events at Stamford Bridge were so surreal I am still not entirely convinced it wasn’t all just part of the most elaborate dream ever.

The performance was magnificent. Even the bulk of the first half saw us play well, which was why it hurt so much to be punctured by two such cheap goals, especially the second – Filipe Morais’ coughing up of possession was incredibly frustrating. If Chelsea were going to score I at least wanted them to work for it.

That deficit is what made the rest of the performance so special. It would’ve been easy for the team to seek to limit the damages and avoid another Swansea style filleting but the character, intelligence and supreme fitness (Nick Allamby continues to work wonders) they showed to work their way back into the game was almost beyond belief.

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What was the key to coming back from 2-0 down?

Tim: For me, a key factor in City’s win was our outstanding levels of fitness – we didn’t allow Chelsea to relax on the ball, and they evidently weren’t used to being harried in such a way, especially on their own turf.

Our players never stopped but they still looked fresh, even towards the end. Much credit must go to Nick Allamby who obviously has the team in fantastic condition.

Nick: Jon Stead’s top class finish gave us a foothold but his overall display was out of this world. When the ball was sent in his direction it almost always stuck and was then distributed with huge intelligence, creating a platform for Morais, Stephen Darby, Billy Knott and James Meredith to push forward and some of the football we played was Premier League class.

Having got to 75 minutes and not equalised it would’ve been easy to settle for an honourable defeat. It says everything about this group that they continue to push, push and push again. 

Gareth: The key to coming back for me was how positive we were in the second half and how quickly we got onto the front foot.

Stead and James Hanson looked like different players in the second half and Zouma and Cahill really struggled to cope with them. I don’t know if Chelsea thought that the game was won at 2-0, but they certainly struggled to get going again after their slow start to the second half.

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Where does this rank amongst your all time best Bradford City games?

Tim: I never thought anything could top Aston Villa away but, in my opinion, this was the finest day in Bradford City’s history. We made a mockery of Chelsea’s standing as one of the best teams in Europe and caused arguably the biggest shock in FA Cup history.

Nick: That’s a tricky one. Wolves and Villa are my benchmark, not least because on those occasions the team was under immense pressure and delivered. Arguably this game was one where we had nothing, or little, to lose but the nature of the performance and scoreline means that as a standalone event this may be my number one (difficult to tell so close to the day).

Jose Mourinho teams simply do not lose like this. If Barcelona or Real Madrid had produced that turnaround it would’ve been huge news, never mind Bradford City.

Gareth: I’ll hold fire on this as it normally takes time for things to settle in for me. I look back now on Aston Villa away two years ago and it brings tears to my eyes, whereas at the time it was more a case of being in stunned disbelief.

Chelsea feels very similar, and a friend of mine says that this beats Everton away in 1997; but I think it may take time for me to fully register what we have just done.

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What did you make of Stamford Bridge?

Nick: I was lucky enough to have a good view from the top tier but the atmosphere in the home sections seemed anaemic. Anecdotally it appears the tourist quotient was up on Saturday and there was an assumption this would be a regulation home win. Mind you, I thought as much after half an hour. I’ll keep taking the pills…

Gareth: The away end is shocking. We were on the back row of the bottom tier and we couldn’t see a thing when people stood up because of the overhang of the top tier. This led to people cramming together standing up on steps, which was really hazardous. The atmosphere for such a successful club was dire too.

Tim: This was my first visit to Stamford Bridge and I thought it was a very impressive stadium, although some City fans evidently had a poor view of the game.

Chelsea put a lot of effort into giving our fans a good experience – there were signs in the away concourse saying ‘Come on City’ and a screen was showing highlights of the History Makers season which I thought was a nice touch. The catering was a bit of an eye-opener to some and it was quite comical to hear the regular cries of “How much?!” from City fans as they were charged £4.20 for half of lager!

The Chelsea home support was the most pathetic I have ever seen, more akin to a theatre audience than a football crowd. I can only recall one chant emanating from their end throughout the match. I began to wonder how their long-standing supporters feel about this – do all the trophies and European nights make up for the fact they have to watch games in such a soulless atmosphere? Or would they prefer the ‘old’ Chelsea back?

I spoke to a visibly annoyed Chelsea fan on the tube afterwards who stated he was “finished with Stamford Bridge” as he didn’t like what his club had become. After what I saw on Saturday, I totally sympathise with this.

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Categories: The Verdict

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7 replies

  1. At 2-1 and looking for the equaliser I just kept thinking that the drive home, and ensuing few days, would be about ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’ as it felt like we could win it but not expecting to. And then BOOM!! we were winning and my normally placid wife was chanting and dancing like a maniac…

  2. NIck mentions “the tourist quotient being up” and i think you are absolutely right. Outside the ground I saw two large groups of what appeared to be Japanese tourists who had obviously just bought the brand new scarves and hats they were wearing.
    I took binoculars as I do at Valley Parade and in the stand to our right there was a larger than average quota of Dads with their youngsters. Said youngsters also had what appeared to be new scarves and those large `handy` things. The impression I got was that because we are not attractive opposition the usual occupants of those seats had transferred their tickets to people who cant maybe go to games on a regular basis. So the make up of the Chelsea crowd was perhaps not typical and maybe I would go as far as to say that many had never been to a game before. They certainly did not appear to `behave` like regulars, and many were staring in awe at the CIty fans. Almost as if they did not expect a non Premier League team to have such large and noisy support. I guess many thought they would be guaranteed a Chelsea win by a big margin so ideal to take little Ben to his first game.
    Certainly this was evident with both Chelsea goals which were met with a ripple of almost polite applause, and total disbelief when we scored and even more so when it looked like we might actually win.
    Also looking round the stands there was banners for Cyprus BLues, PIttsburgh Blues, Channel Island Blues, York Blues, Kerry Blues etc, which gave the impression that there were few genuine Chelsea fans in (People who live locally) in the ground.
    To be honest if thats life at the top of the Premier League, you an keep it!!

    • I was in the East Stand at the end nearest our fans with my boy and you’re right, it was full of tourists, Japanese guy and son next to us, couple of Americans the other side etc, and families with new scarves etc. At least it meant our increasingly frenzied celebrations were tolerated.

  3. The banners Mark refers to seemed to me to be permanent fixtures, the hired hands waving the massive flags were comical, I take what has been said about the higher than average tourist fans but surely the Matthew Harding stand was full or your more die hard supporters. Given that only last week Chelsea confirmed that they had decided not to pump in fake crowd noise gives some indication that atmosphere is an ongoing issue for them. The volume that Blue Is The Colour was played at pre-match was a farce, I thought my ears were going to bleed, I can only imagine it was done in an attempt to drown us out. I love how positive and noisy our support is and has been for a number of years now, long may it continue.

  4. Yes I realised the banners were not just there for that game but it was an indication of the kind of support these clubs get, which is completely different to a club like ours, thankfully. However I did also see a lot of coaches parked up on a different street to where our were left, and after the game I saw Chelsea fans heading for them, and they were from Oxford, Dover, etc.
    The Matthew Harding stand was the only section of the ground that made any noise.
    I too thought the waving of the massive flags was strange but Chelsea are not the only ones who do this, and I think its been imported from Spain etc.
    Our support is better than I have ever known it, in terms of noise and also the fact that it continues in the face of adversity, for example when we concede.

  5. It sounded like they had a crowd in this evening, but it may only have been because they were 1-0 up at the time, and in a cup semi (if only a domestic cup, and the “other” one too, the League cup)
    And yes – the prematch music was ridiculously loud on Saturday.

  6. It did sound completely different for tonights game against Liverpool. That kind of confirms a couple of things to me. Saturdays crowd mixture was not the normal one you would get for a Chelsea home game possibly because it was easier for non regulars to get tickets, and some regulars gave it a miss. “Its only Bradford and we will win easily”. Also they expected an easy victory for Chelsea, which to be honest many of us did.
    I know we know all that anyway but it just acted as confirmation for me.

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